Sen Cynthia Villar Questions the PRA on How Reclamation Promote Inclusive Growth

Sen. Cynthia Villar to PRA: How can we promote inclusive growth with reclamations?

Sen. Cynthia Villar appealed to the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to consider public interest first before financial gains in approving reclamation projects in the country.

During the hearing of the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises joint with the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources presided over by Villar, she expressed alarm over the planned reclamation of 38,272 hectares of land under the National Reclamation Project (NRP).

Villar said the construction of the Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) which the PRA boasted as a successful reclamation project, resulted in the flooding of barangays in Cavite.  

“Ibig sabihin, when you analyze a project, hindi dahil kikita ang project for PRA, it’s okay. Dapat ang foremost would be sino ba ang maaapektuhan nyan? Ano ba ang mangyayari kung gawin iyan? Lulubog ba ang mga bayan? Mawawalan ba ng trabaho ang mga fishermen? Yung mga nagtitinda ng isda? Bilangin ninyo kung ilan ang mawawalan ng trabaho, sino ba ang binaha? Iyan ang tanong diyan.” Villar said.

“What is the priority of the government? Sino ba ang dapat mag benefit? Wala namang nagtayo ng pabahay para sa mahirap sa reclaimed land. Is that inclusive growth?  We have forgotten our mandate of public interest; parang we’re giving attention to financial gains,” she added.

Villar said inclusive growth, as espoused by President Aquino, means ensuring economic gains will trickle down to the poor.

Villar asked Atty. Joselito Gonzales, assistant general manager of the PRA, to also study how the NRP would benefit the poor and not only to make it attractive to investors.

The hearing was called based on Proposed Resolution No. 294, authored by Villar, directing a review of the mandate, powers and responsibilities of PRA and the approved reclamation projects in the country.

Last October 16, Villar delivered a privilege speech in the Senate entitled “Reclaiming the People’s Right to a Balanced and Healthful Ecology,” where she enumerated the environmental hazards of reclamation.

During the hearing, Villar supported the suggestion of Cesar Villanueva, chairman of the Governance Commission for GOCCs to hire consultants that will provide an independent study of a proposed reclamation project.

Villar also lamented the absence of a genuine public consultation in the process.
“I was congresswoman of Las Piñas but I was never consulted when the reclamation project which will affect the only critical habitat in Metro Manila was approved,” Villar said.

Villar was referring to Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA), one of the world’s most important wetlands.

However, Villar was also able to elicit from Atty. Juan Miguel Cuna, OIC-Director, Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the assurance to protect the critical habitat.

She cited the study saying that the reclamation in Las Piñas would result in as high as five meters flooding in the city.

Villar suggested that instead of reclamation, government should focus more on urban renewal like what developers do in deteriorated areas abroad.

“I favor urban renewal than reclamation. Maraming environmental effect ang reclamation. It’s something that we cannot predict,” she said.

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