Commentary Earth Files

For love of Red China, Manila Bay is ravaged

At the rate Rodrigo Duterte was giving away the Philippines to Red China, there now arises an acute need to exorcise the country from all Red Chinese concessions that he had approved. The suspension of all 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay is a step in the right direction.

On February 1, 2019, Duterte signed Executive Order 74 placing the Philippine Reclamation Authority directly under the Office of the President. Reclamations, because of their extractive and environment-altering nature, need to be under a government branch with regulatory powers such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In declaring this move, two EOs had to be repealed to accommodate the Duterte wish.

What was his ulterior motive? We shall soon see.

In June of 2018, media summarized all of Duterte’s appointments the past year by way of Palace records and press-covered schedules. Duterte was predictable in his predilection — businessmen from Red China had made a beeline to Malacañang because appointments were easily approved if the ones seeking were Red Chinese businessmen.

Here was the smoking gun: Many of these businessmen had proposed massive reclamation projects in Manila Bay.

One of them even wanted a shrine to the goddess Mazu along Manila Bay. Red Chinese businessman Jose Kho offered to foot the bill. Kho had invited tourism secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo to the Mazu cultural festival in Macau in October 2017. In his first meeting with Duterte, Kho was accompanied by Teo’s brother Ramon Tulfo.

There’s more than meets the eye.

Later in Malacañang, Duterte decorated Kho with the Medal of the Order of Lapulapu. The state award, funded by the state naturally, was one of Duterte’s ridiculous creations that Malacañang should now repeal. Here’s why — the Order of Lapulapu, created by Duterte on April 7, 2017 by way of EO 17, recognizes “officials and personnel of the government and private citizens who gave ‘invaluable’ or ‘extraordinary’ service in relation to his campaign and advocacy.” That would include his fake war against drugs and even his Red China pivot.

Duterte would conjure up anything for his love of Red China.

Among the prominent Palace callers was the one on August 23, 2017. That day, Duterte received top executives of the China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC). The name rings a bell to the international community. The World Bank had once suspended CCCC because of corruption in public works projects.

When told about CCCC, Duterte feigned ignorance and said he will give the company a chance.

Fast forward to August of 2020 when Duterte was still in power; the US Department of Commerce blacklisted CCCC and five of its subsidiaries for its role in creating artificial islands and militarizing them in the name of the Red China Communist Party.

In January of 2019, a tit for tat took place between interior undersecretary Jonathan Malaya and lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc. Malaya criticized the lawmakers when they demanded, through a House resolution, a clear-cut assurance that the Manila Bay cleanup will not lead to reclamation. Malaya was one of the most rabid Dutertismo apologists. He said that the operational plan for the Manila Bay coastal strategy was directed by the Supreme Court mandamus and included no reclamation. Today we know he lied.

Barely a month after Malaya lied, on February 1, 2019, Duterte transferred the power to approve reclamation projects under him.

Duterte approved all of the 22 reclamation projects that appeared like thieves in the night in the Manila Bay horizon. That information comes from the mouth of current DENR secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga. Now that Duterte is out of power, government is telling the truth. The rundown incudes three reclamation projects approved by Erap Estrada as Manila mayor, the rest by Duterte, totaling 22 reclamation projects. Of the 22, only 18 complied with the mandatory Environmental Compliance Certificate.

Think of all the ecological damage from that humongous number of geography-altering reclamations: damage to fishing grounds, obliteration of coral beds and sea grass, sea noise that drives away fish, displacement of coastal fishers, floods, river mouth obstructions. The list can be longer because reclamation is destructive. But that is how Duterte will go the extra mile to please his political patron Red China.

Meanwhile, cowardice and self-preservation reign in our two houses of Congress. No one calls to make Duterte accountable. That is because there is a Duterte son in the House, two of his death squad authors and operators in the Senate, and a Duterte daughter who thinks she will make a good president of the Philippines in 2028. That is not to mention that in the Senate sits Sherwin Gatchalian whose family is behind one of the reclamation projects.

Can all the 22 be stopped and reclamation in Manila Bay be declared perpetually prohibited? Only if our legislatures are not exclusive elitist clubs. But they are.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.