ACT-CIS party-list lawmaker and ex-Social Welfare and Development chief Erwin Tulfo on Tuesday filed a resolution seeking a probe on the status of the Manila Bay reclamation projects.
Tulfo's House Resolution 1171 wants to find out if there is a "national security risk" in the reclamation projects because of the involvement of Chinese firms. The resolution also mentions that no less than Speaker Martin Romualdez of Leyte raised concerns about the projects.
“Our Speaker has received reports that the Chinese crew of these vessels come to our shores in Pasay and Manila at night. I was also informed by the Speaker (Romualdez) that he was concerned after hearing several news reports regarding national security issue in the reclamation area as he remains committed to safeguarding our nation’s security, upholding our territorial integrity and fostering peaceful cooperation in the region,” Tulfo said in a statement.
“I have also read in several news reports that one of the companies involved in the reclamation project in Manila Bay [reclamation projects] is China Communications Construction Co., the same construction company involved in the construction of an airbase and naval base of China in the West Philippine Sea," added Tulfo.
"Ang tanong ko po, may ahensya ba tayo na chine-check ang mga barko na nakaparada diyan sa Manila bay ngayon na galing sa ibang bansa kung ito ba ay lehitimong dredging vessel o baka naman mga militia vessels na galing sa West Philippine Sea?”
(Are government authorities checking on these ships to begin with? If these are indeed dredging vessel or militia vessels from West Philippine Sea?)
Before Tulfo sought inquiry, the US Embassy in Manila, which is situated by the Manila Bay, already raised concerns on the reclamation projects for the projects' ties with China Communications Construction Co., a firm cited by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for engaging in fraudulent business practices.
"We are also concerned that the projects have ties to the China Communications Construction Co., which has been added to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List for its role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea," said Embassy spokesperson Kanishka Gangopadhyay last week.
Tulfo, meanwhile, wants to know if there are safeguards in place in relation to the possible security risks.
“Nababantayan ba ang mga crew nito kung bumababa sa gabi at gumagala at marahil ay kumukuha ng mga litrato at impormasyon hinggil sa ating bayan?” Tulfo asked.
(Who is monitoring these ships’ crew members, especially at night when they can take photos and obtain other information about our country?)
In the same Resolution, the lawmakers noted that while the ongoing land reclamation may offer potential economic benefits and development opportunities, such projects can also have huge environmental impact.
“I am not against any development or growth, but if that development will kill the livelihood of people living in that area, or shuts down business, or disturbs the environment, or even violates certain local government codes, will it sill be beneficial for the people?” Tulfo said.
“The reclamation of Manila Bay right now will certainly leave some sectors of our society impoverished,” Tulfo added.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also underscored that the occurrence of a possible major earthquake touted as the "Big One" should be considered when it comes to the reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
The DENR said it has been conducting cumulative impact assessments on the reclamation projects to demonstrate the effects of the projects to the Manila Bay.
The permits for the projects were completed from 2019 to 2021 under the Duterte administration.
At least 5,000 hectares of Manila Bay will be needed for the total of 13 reclamation projects that have been approved —VAL, GMA Integrated News