Filipino Fishermen Blocked from Fishing in Manila Bay Area for China Funded Artificial Island

China's island builder has US embassy in Manila surrounded

China Harbour Engineering wins contract for 360-hectare reclamation project

MANILA -- China Harbour Engineering has clinched a contract for a $1 billion land reclamation project to extend SM Prime Holdings' Mall of Asia complex in the Manila area, with construction greenlighted to begin next year.

The company is among a group of Chinese construction businesses working on at least five separate land reclamation projects in Manila Bay that will in effect leave the U.S. government's bayside embassy in the Philippine capital surrounded by reclaimed land.

China Harbour will partner with Dutch company Royal Boskalis Westminster for the 360-hectare project, according to Alexander Pomento, vice president for investor relations at SM Prime Holdings, the Philippines' largest real estate company by market value.

China Harbour Engineering, which figured in a bribery scandal involving a Bangladesh highway project last year, is a subsidiary of infrastructure giant China Communications Construction Co., which oversaw the transformation of a handful of rocks and reefs in the South China Sea into a chain of Chinese maritime and military outposts.

"The company has finalized a selection of consultants and contractors from a roster of reputable companies with proven global reclamation and dredging experience to ensure proper and responsible implementation of the project," SM Prime President Jeffrey Lim said on Friday.

While Beijing's militarization of the South China Sea has raised regional tensions and undermined relations with Washington, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has downplayed the issue in return for closer ties with China and less reliance on the U.S.

The reclaimed land around Metro Manila is set to host a series of new shopping centers, hotels, offices and entertainment facilities in the chronically gridlocked capital, which has struggled to accommodate a growing economy as well as a recent surge in Chinese tourism and a flourishing online casino industry that has attracted hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers.

Twenty-three reclamation projects, many of them in the Manila Bay area, have been proposed as of March, according to the Philippine Reclamation Authority.

According to the World Bank, sustained average annual growth of 6.3% covering 2010 to 2018 has the Philippines poised to leap from a lower middle income country with a gross national income per capita of US$3,660 in 2017 to an upper middle income country with a per capita income range of $12,055.

SM Prime said the Mall of Asia project, first proposed in 2013, had received a formal "notice to proceed" from the Pasay City local government recently. Reclamation work is expected to be completed within three years, with two more years needed for land development, Royal Boskalis said.

SM Prime also has two other Manila Bay reclamation proposals pending approval: a 300-hectare project in Paranaque City and another 335-hectare project in Pasay, according to Philippine Reclamation Authority records.


Duterte transfers power to approve reclamation projects to agency under his office

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the transfer of power to approve reclamation projects from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), which is now placed under the Office of the President (OP).

Executive Order (EO) No. 74 states that the PRA shall now be "under the control and supervision of OP" and notes that the agency shall be given the power to approve all reclamation projects, including those initiated by local government units as well as government-owned or government-controlled corporations.

The document, dated February 1 and noted by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, also mandates the PRA to seek "advisory opinions" from other agencies such as NEDA, the Environment Department, and the Finance Department with regard to reclamation project proposals.

"No reclamation project shall be approved by the PRA without the required Area Clearance and Environmental Compliance Certificate to be issued by the DENR. The DENR shall ensure transparency and inclusivity in the conduct of the Environmental Impact Assessment which shall include public disclosure and multi-stakeholder engagement," the document read.

The order will also nullify EO 146, which initially delegated the power to approve reclamation projects to NEDA.

All projects must undergo public bidding, the order added.


The PRA shall also craft a national and regional "reclamation and development plan" that takes into consideration the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the proposed activities.

Last November 2018, the PRA and NEDA signed a joint memorandum circular, which aimed to strengthen the supervision and regulation of such projects.

The development comes amid reports some reclamation projects were approved in Manila Bay, which is also undergoing a massive cleanup.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the order will make the President more "hands-on" with the particular issue.

"Siguro he feels na mas maganda pag under the Office of the President. Pag sa Office of the President, mabibilis ang takbo ng lahat ng ahensya ng mga gobyerno," Panelo said in his media briefing Monday.

[Translation: Maybe he feels it would be better for it to be under the Office of the President. Because under the Office of the President, government agencies tend to work faster.]


ALERT — Metal walls are being installed along the shores of Bacoor City, Cavite; blocking the fishers from going offshore to conduct fishing livelihood. These walls, lacking project details, are believed to be part of the 420-hectare reclamation project in Manila Bay by the LGU.


The twin-reclamation projects — the 100-ha Diamond Reclamation and Development Project that costs P13.5 billion, and the 320-ha Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project amounting to P42 billion, is set to displace at least 700 fishing families in the country’s tahong capital.


ALERT — Metal walls are being installed along the shores of Bacoor City, Cavite; blocking the fishers from going offshore to conduct fishing livelihood. These walls, lacking project details, are believed to be part of the 420-hectare reclamation project in Manila Bay by the LGU.


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