Manila Bay Development Authority

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Thursday, July 10, 2014


MANILA Bay is famous for its spectacular sunset. More than that, it is of economic importance to the Philippines. It is one of the best natural harbors in the world. It is bustling with economic activity and hosts the nation’s biggest shipping port, ferry terminals and fish port.

Manila Bay has also recreational and historical significance. Along its 1,900-kilometer coastline are beaches, resorts, yachting marina and natural parks. It was a focal point of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade and a scene of many naval battles. The walled city of Intramuros, Corregidor’s ruined barracks and artilleries as well as ancestral homes and museums are the distinguishing marks of its historical and cultural importance.

But Manila Bay is sick. Its waters are polluted. Untreated domestic wastes from drainage and sewers, as well as contaminated water from industries and agricultural farms drain to the bay. The most visible form of pollution is garbage. But invisible to the naked eye are dangerous levels of bacteria lurking in the waters which make the bay unfit for swimming.

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Something needs to be done. Concerned citizens, including lawyer-environmentalist Atty. Oposa, filed a case in court to force the government to clean Manila Bay. After years of legal battle, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision on December 18, 2008. It issued a Writ of Continuing Mandamus directing 13 government agencies “to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters to make them fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.

Since 2008, much has been done by the so-called Mandamus agencies. Now there’s a recent development in the quest to protect Manila Bay. During our last meeting in the Manila Bay Site Coordinating Office in Region 3, we were informed that Congressman Tet Garcia of Bataan filed a bill to create a super body to be known as the Manila Bay Development Authority (MBDA).

A quick glance of the proposed bill shows that the MBDA is both a regulatory body and a business entity. It has the power to approve or disapprove plans of LGUs and government agencies on projects related to Manila Bay. It has the exclusive jurisdiction to issue permits for the use of the water for any projects affecting the bay. It can require LGUs to pass appropriate zoning ordinances and other regulatory measures.

On the other hand, it is a Corporation with an authorized capital of half a billion pesos to be subscribed by the National government, LGUs and private investors. Thus, it can engage in agriculture, industry, commerce and other activities in the region. It can reclaim portions of Manila bay. It can lend or facilitate the extension of financial assistance or act as surety guarantor to agricultural, industrial and commercial enterprise.

The MBDA shall be headed by a Board of Directors with 12 members composed of the Executive Secretary and Secretaries of government agencies as well as representatives of the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan, Cavite and the MMDA. A representative from the private sector also sits in the board. The General Manager, who will also be a member of the board, shall be appointed by the President. The MBDA will be under the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

The questions that immediately arose after the bill was presented to us are: What will happen to the Supreme Court’s Mandamus? Why is it under Neda and not the DENR? Is there a conflict of interest between its regulatory function and business interest especially when there are private investors? Will the MBDA assume the functions of other regulatory agencies like the EMB?

Well, with so many important provisions in the proposed bill, I'm sure there will be many discussions and debates in the committee hearings.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on July 11, 2014.

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