The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) assured the public that it will do its job to ensure that reclamation projects in the Manila Bay are implemented within the bounds of the law, especially after President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ordered the suspension of all reclamations in the vital waterway.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said that the administration understands the intersection between sustainable development, the environment, biodiversity, climate change, and land-use change among others, as mentioned by President Marcos in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“We are here at that point where the President has then issued the suspension of reclamation projects in Manila Bay really to look into, number one, the environmental impacts, (and) also the social impacts of these activities,” Yulo-Loyzaga said.

“On the part of the DENR, we are, of course, as I said before, looking into the compliances, the conditions under which the ECCs (Environmental Compliance Certificates) and area clearances were issued.”

The issue, she said, is the Community Impact Assessment to be carried out by a scientific team that the DENR will be organizing by this month.

“We intend to provide a program of work, once they have all met together. Hindi lang po ito simple. Community Impact Assessment involves drivers; it involves feedback and it involves many different disciplines,” she pointed out.

The assessment of some 22 projects, approved during the previous administration, will be through trans-disciplinary work, which will get the inputs from social scientists, communities, experts, and academicians, she said.

Asked about DENR’s target, she said, the department will know once the scientific team converges and the work program will be laid out. The team will include physical scientist, oceanographers, geologist, climate scientist, as well as social scientist.

Yulo-Loyzaga clarified that the President’s declaration covers all the projects that are now suspended and under review.

“We have to take our time, really, beginning with those that are ongoing, because they are, in fact, already impacting the areas. And then, we will graduate to those that are in fact, still not yet begun,” she pointed out.

In addition, the DENR chief said her agency has a mandate under the mandamus issued by the high court, which is to rehabilitate Manila Bay to the point “where people can actually swim and fish, and that is an order we take very seriously.”

She pointed out that aside from the DENR, there are 13 other agencies ordered by the Supreme Court to rehabilitate the bay.

“Now, if we are to do what we have been obligated to do by the Supreme Court, we need to do the review of these projects,” she said.

During a meeting with local officials in Bulacan early this week, Marcos said the government has suspended all reclamation projects in Manila Bay, noting the issues in project implementation. He pointed to multiple problems, stressing that many of the projects are not being conducted properly. | PND

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