Climate and Environment

US concerned over Manila Bay reclamation projects tied to Chinese firm

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
US concerned over Manila Bay reclamation projects tied to Chinese firm
This picture shows a barge unloading sand at a reclamation site in Manila Bay on March 14, 2023.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The United States government has expressed concerns over the potential environmental impacts and risks to local communities posed by the ongoing reclamation projects in Manila Bay, which are linked to a controversial Chinese company. 

The US Embassy in Manila said that it is in constant communication with the government about the reclamation projects. 

“We have expressed concerns about the potential negative long-term and irreversible impacts to the environment, the resilience to natural hazards of Manila and nearby areas, and to commerce,” the embassy said in response to a media query on a Bilyonaryo article

Environmentalists, scientists, and fishers have long asked the government to halt these projects, citing concerns over the destruction of mangroves, wetlands and marine ecosystems, displacement of coastal communities, and loss of livelihood. 

There are around 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay, an important fishing ground and a hub of economic activities.

Blacklisted firm

The US Embassy also expressed concern about the ties of reclamation projects to the China Communications Construction Company, a firm blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce. Washington sanctioned CCCC for helping the Chinese military construct and militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea, including areas that the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea.

The embassy added that the firm has been cited by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank “for engaging in fraudulent business practices.”

The CCCC is behind the Samal Island-Davao City Connector project, and the North and South Harbor Bridge.

During a meeting with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. early this year, the company proposed to build a highway project connecting Laoag City in Ilocos Norte and Rosario in La Union. 

"We continue to support high quality, sustainable, and transparent investments to benefit the Filipino people and will continue to engage with the appropriate authorities on this matter," the US Embassy said.

Cumulative impact assessment 

In response to the US Embassy’s statement, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Loyzaga said the agency will assess the cumulative impacts of reclamation activities in Manila Bay. 

“We’re now assembling the team that would be doing the cumulative impact assessment so we started talking to different scientists,” Loyzaga said in a Palace briefing Wednesday.

She noted that the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan crafted by the previous administration will serve as a reference for the assessment. The master plan was envisioned to guide decision makers in the assessment and approval of programs and projects (PAPs) for implementation in the Manila Bay and in adjacent areas with significant influence on the bay.

“Reclamation has a certain value in terms of economy. However, we need to do the cost benefit analysis in terms of impacts to geology and longer term impacts in terms of what could result from climate change,” Loyzaga said. 

The DENR chief earlier said the agency is monitoring the compliance of reclamation projects that are under construction.

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