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    Posted February 19, 2014 by

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    Move to reclaim Manila Bay questioned

    THE Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) on Wednesday received a mouthful of stern reminder from the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) for its plan to reclaim Manila Bay.
    During an inquiry conducted by the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar, PRA was subjected to public scrutiny and criticisms regarding its national reclamation plan.
    The plan includes over 100 reclamation projects covering 38,000 hectares, 38 of which encompassing 26,234 hectares or 70 percent will be implemented in Manila Bay.
    "The only impetus that drives the PRA in pushing for reclamation is apparently huge potential investment as PRA seems to rely heavily on this and not on the exercise of promoting public interest. Is huge potential investment a concern or area of expertise of PRA?" Villar asked.
    While Atty. Jose Gonzales, PRA's Assistant General Manager for Legal and Administrative Services, cited in the Senate hearing that the national reclamation plan is "nothing more than a blueprint and not an implementation plan", PRA's five-stage process in identifying reclamation projects does not take into consideration national interest and lacks public consultation.
    "It is the obligation of the PRA (as a regulatory body) to actually define a national reclamation plan, more than just a blueprint...to actually provide the country with a plan that takes all national interests into consideration," said Cesar Villanueva, Chairman of GCG.
    As a GOCC, Villanueva said GCG has monitoring and supervising authority over PRA. He cited that GCG has been asking the PRA board to submit it as a requirement of their yearly performance evaluation.
    He also said that what is needed is a "true development plan" that does not only take into account the technical or economic feasibility of a reclamation project.
    GCG also criticized that five-stage process of PRA, particularly the parts where the feasibility study and consultation process are done by a private sector group and identified proponent -- the independence and fairness of which is compromised.
    "If there is a proponent already that means PRA is already pushing this with a private sector proponent and the main drive of that would have to be profit...feasibility studies are done in ways that become lucrative and viable depending on who are pushing for it," the GCG chairman said.
    PRA admitted that it does not have the financial capacity or capability to conduct pre-feasibility study and consultation. But according to GCG, PRA should spend its budget to hire its own experts to do its own studies and develop a national reclamation plan after consulting all those involved.
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