May 10, 2019

Manila Bay is currently getting a facelift. With this news of rehabilitation efforts come the stories of reclamation projects on various portions of the bay’s 190-km. stretch of nearshore. In fact, there are 22 reclamation projects that are planned along Manila Bay, the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) told the lawmakers in February.

The increasing concerns on and threats brought about these invasive moves motivated a lawmaker to write a house bill that protects the bay by proclaiming it a heritage site: House Bill No. 9181 by Rep. Rosemarie J. Areñas is “an act declaring Manila Bay as heritage asset free from any and all forms of further reclamation and providing penalties therefor.” It was filed Apr. 11.

“Millions of Filipinos embrace the heritage of Manila Bay Area, not only because of its historical significance and cultural importance but also because of the environmental costs that come with massive reclamation,” writes Areñas on her explanatory note.

The lawmaker from Pangasinan cited geophysical hazards like land subsidence, storm surge and storm waves caused by typhoons, and seismically-induced liquefaction, where the strength of a soil is reduced by earthquakes or floods. “Structures built on top of liquefied land are likely to collapse and kill people,” she writes.

She also highlighted that reclamation practices will destroy the ecosystem in the sea—reform the circulation of water leading to a reduction in water quality and increased pollution, and threaten the stability of our food supply since Manila Bay is also productive fishing area.

“It is high time for Congress to pass a law that will specifically ban, in no uncertain terms, and make it a serious criminal violation to allow further reclamation in Manila Bay,” writes Areñas. “Manila Bay Area belongs to the Filipino people and must remain in public hands.”

Under the bill, all projects approved and all plans for reclamation projects at the PRA, Office of the President, or any government agency or local government units are nullified and disapproved. All activities that “seek to fill, cover, or overlay the sea waters of the Manila Bay Area with soil, gravel, stones, or other similar materials to create artificial land space beginning from the coast; or any activity that will construct artificial islands or floating structures” are prohibited.

Those who violate the provisions of the law, when passed, will be imprisoned for not less than six years but not more than 12 years and a fine of not less than P5 million but not more than P15 million. Any public officer who violates will be dismissed from public service with corresponding penalties.


Featured image courtesy of Philippine Daily Inquirer

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TAGS: heritage sites in the Philippines manila bay philippine reclamation authority rep. rosemarie arenas