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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 4) — 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.]