Environment Secretary Antonia Loyzaga underscored the need to develop an evidence-based assessment of the ecological and economic impacts of land reclamation, during the recently concluded experts forum organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Loyzaga said the assessment must be cumulative in order to truly strike a balance between development and potential adverse environmental impacts of reclamation projects.

“The scientific basis for doing the assessment needs to be established, and that has to be cumulative,” Loyzaga pointed out.

“There are livelihoods at stake, there are different considerations in terms for the need for land and space, in terms of the development plans of the different LGUs,” she added.

The Experts Forum on Reclamation, held last May 8 in Manila, has put forward the importance of cumulative assessment and valuation studies as brought up by scientists, academicians, government officials, and representatives of civil society organizations.

Among the specific points raised by the panelists and reactors in the technical and governance discussions were the need for the government and the proponents to jointly undertake baseline studies for change-detection and scenario-building, and to do a cumulative assessment of the entire project.

To ensure safe and sustainable reclamation, they said it is imperative to have clear, science- and evidence-informed, harmonized, and streamlined policies and procedures for reclamation.

The forum also highlighted the need to align national and local plans on reclamation, enhance the processes and requirements for issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificate and Area Clearance, and require the conduct of scientific studies to determine the environmental and socio-economic impacts of reclamation.

According to Loyzaga, critical to the issue of reclamation is “primarily the national policy and secondly, the link between the proponent and the proposal and the comprehensive land use plan; the link between the comprehensive land use plan and the regional development plan and how that links upward with the national policy.”

Consideration of the mitigation hierarchy was also raised during the forum. Loyzaga said that as much as possible, negative impacts of reclamation projects should be avoided.

“The importance here is we have a net positive impact overall. We need to be able to mitigate. Where we cannot mitigate, we must compensate,” said Loyzaga.

Also common among the views raised is the need for valuation studies to determine the coastal and marine resources that could be potentially affected by the reclamation projects. This is seen to be critical and important given that the Philippines is archipelagic. #