The Supreme Court mandamus ruling on Manila Bay must be taken into account in all reclamation projects within the historic water body, Secretary Antonia Loyzaga said, during the recent Multistakeholder Experts Dialogue on Reclamation organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In her opening remarks, Loyzaga said the legal and regulatory context of reclamation activities “must also be paramount in consideration” aside from the environmental aspects.
“The most important and relevant (legal and regulatory context) to the dialogue is the Manila Bay Mandamus Ruling,” Loyzaga said.
The environment chief referenced the 2008 high court decision directing 13 government agencies led by the DENR to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay; and restore and maintain its waters to a level fit for commercial propagation of shellfish and milkfish, as well as for swimming, skin diving and other forms of recreation.
Apart from DENR, other agencies with specific roles to play in implementing the order are Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Health, Department of Public Works and Highways, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Department of Budget and Management, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, and Philippine Ports Authority.
The areas covered by the mandamus encompass local government units from Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan.
Meanwhile, Loyzaga underscored the need to come up with cumulative impact assessments of all reclamation activities, “and not an evaluation of individual projects as they present themselves and stand singly and alone.”
“Reclamation is an environmental issue that must be addressed from a lens that considers the intersectionality between ecological dynamics, socioeconomic and build environments, and the costs and benefits of these activities,” Loyzaga explained.
“Reclamation decisions must consider interactions between land, air and sea—and the multitude of environmental factors from physics and chemistry of water, biodiversity, and the demand for sources of food, power and water,” she added.
At the same time, Loyzaga said the compounded risks due to hazards must also be factored into the cumulative impact assessments and resilience analytics. These hazards include liquefaction and tsunami from the movements in the Manila Trench; the West Valley Fault and other fault systems affecting the region; and the impacts of climate change such as rising sea surface temperatures, sea level rise, the projected increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones, extreme rainfall events, and exposure to storm surge and flooding.
Loyzaga nonetheless said reclamation could serve a beneficial purpose, citing as successful examples much of the city of Rotterdam, new land for transportation infrastructure and urban expansion in Boston, and other reclamation projects across the globe.
She also noted that areas of Intramuros, Luneta and the CCP Complex in the cities of Manila and Pasay are also reclaimed.
“In each of these areas, however, the level of investment in terms of time, scientific knowledge, planning, evaluation and management was achieved through critical and extensive collaboration between the public and private sectors, and it was maintained through strong science-informed leadership and risk governance,” Loyzaga stressed.
On the other hand, DENR Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said reclamation drives economic activities and generates revenues for the government. 
"However, reclamation should not only be confined within the economic parameters, but also on the context of environmental protection and conservation, disaster risk and climate change mitigation that are science- and evidence-based," he added.
The reclamation forum featured the sharing of global best practices on reclamation from technical experts from the United States, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and Singapore, and processes and issues on reclamation in the Philippines from academicians, government officials and private sector representatives. It is a means for the DENR to look deeper and accelerate the review of both policy and practice of environmentally critical issues, such as reclamation. ###