President Benigno Aquino III has transferred the power to approve all reclamation projects from the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
“The power of the President to approve reclamation projects is hereby delegated to the NEDA Board,” Aquino, who chairs NEDA as President, said in Executive Order No. 146.
The bureaucratic move comes at a time of rising opposition to a plan to reclaim a large portion of Manila Bay, a project supported by Mayor Joseph Estrada, a former Philippine president.
Opponents have denounced the reclamation as an environmental risk and have raised the specter of storm surge in the heart of Manila, the fresh image of Yolanda’s victims coming to mind.
In 2006, then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued EO 543 delegating the power of the President to approve reclamation projects to the PRA.
Aquino, however, said there is “a need to ensure that reclamation initiatives or projects are coordinated and integrated at the national and regional levels of development planning and programming, consistent with established national priorities of the government, and synchronized with development planning, programming, and budgeting.”
According to its website, NEDA is “the country’s independent economic development and planning agency.” It is headed by the President as chairman of its board, with the Secretary of Socio-Economic Planning, concurrently NEDA Director-General, as vice-chairman. Some Cabinet members, the Central Bank Governor, ARMM and ULAP are also members of the board.
In need of NEDA approval
The EO said that NEDA Board approval shall specifically required for:
reclamation projects initiated/proposed by PRA or any government entity allowed under existing laws to reclaim land;
reclamation projects initiated by the private sector/entity through PRA, local government units, or other government agencies authorized to reclaim land;
reclamations/reclamation components of respective development projects of such agencies mandated to reclaim under their respective charters such as but limited to the Philippine Ports Authority, Laguna Lake Development Authority, Bases Conversion and Development Authority, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Philippine Veterans Investment Corporation, Department of Public Works and Highways; and National Power Corporation.
But Aquino said the PRA will continue to process, evaluate, and recommend the approval of all proposed reclamation projects. He also said that except for the power to approve reclamation projects, all other powers, functions, and mandates of PRA shall be retained.
PRA welcomes EO
In a statement, the PRA Board said it welcomes the EO because it “assures that every reclamation initiative is coordinated and integrated in the national and regional levels of development planning.”
It explained that the EO just “formalizes” the approval protocol that it has been following.
“In parallel with the PRA’s stringent 5-stage approval process and due diligence in projects that are crucial to development, this EO will guarantee that every approved reclamation project will be consistent with established national priorities of the government,” it said.
With Aquino’s EO, the PRA Board said it can now focus on its other duties, including evaluating project proposals, conducting technical studies, and seeking clearances from other government agencies.