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Decision on SM Prime’s reclamation plan up to next gov’t

Posted on January 11, 2015 10:53:00 PM

 By Daphne J. Magturo, Reporter

SM PRIME Holdings, Inc.’s plan to reclaim and develop a combined 600 hectares of land along Manila Bay into a central business district may have to wait until 2017 before the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) acts on it, as the regulator said it looks to commissioning a lengthy comprehensive study that will serve as a “benchmark” for all reclamation projects involving the country’s major hub.
 
“The study is intended to be a comprehensive study for the whole Manila Bay area from the northern most tip in Pampanga down to the Southern part in Ternate or Maragondon, Cavite,” PRA Assistant General Manager for Reclamation and Regulation Joselito D. Gonzales told BusinessWorld in a phone interview.

“It will serve as a benchmark study where we will countercheck proposed projects,” he said, noting that the study is already “long overdue.”

To identify who will conduct the study, the PRA will launch within the year a bidding among consultancy firms with experience in reclamation and environmental study.

After that, the winning consultancy firm is expected to finish the study within 14 months, according to Mr. Gonzales.

“It is logical that the study is finished first before we move ahead with the processing of the LGUs’ (local government units) recommendations,” he said.

Last year, the cities of Pasay and Parañaque both awarded to the SM Group separate contracts to reclaim and develop around 300 hectares each in Manila Bay under their jurisdictions for at least P54.5 billion and P50.19 billion, respectively, and also recommended the same to the PRA, which in turn will endorse it to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for final approval.

Asked whether it will take the PRA up to 2017 before it can begin processing the recommendations of LGUs, Mr. Gonzales replied: “All things being equal, kung walang maging ano, ganoon na nga (that will be the case). But that will be under a new administration, and the reality is, for every new administration, there will be a new policy.”

He noted, however: “There’s still no official confirmation from the PRA board, but I will seek clearance from them so we can take this direction.”

Last month, the PRA also said it would not be able to decide on the Pasay and Parañaque reclamation projects until the government issues implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Executive Order (EO) No. 146.

EO 146 in November 2013 transferred to the NEDA Board from PRA the power to approve reclamation projects after these are endorsed by the latter.

NEDA Deputy Director-General Rolando G. Tungpalan yesterday said, in a mobile phone reply to BusinessWorld, that the policy-making agency is still “awaiting PRA to sign” the proposed IRR.

Mr. Gonzales, meanwhile, said the PRA hopes to have it signed by today.

The IRR will be submitted to the Office of the President for approval, and will be published in newspapers of general circulation or in the Official Gazette before it takes effect. 
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