PAMBANSANG LAKAS ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), an organization of small fisherfolk, urged the government to issue an executive order (EO) to add teeth to its suspension of reclamation projects on Manila Bay.

The organization wants the government “to release an executive order or immediate declaration of Manila Bay as reclamation-free zone,” Pamalakaya National Chairman Fernando L. Hicap said via telephone.

Last week, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said that President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has ordered the suspension of 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay, pending a review of their environmental compliance and social impact.

“All are under review. We have to take our time really beginning with those that are ongoing because they are in fact impacting the areas and then we will graduate to those that are in fact still not yet begun,” she said at a Palace briefing.

Mr. Hicap said the organization is not satisfied with the pronouncement and that the President should issue an EO as a way to block all ongoing Manila Bay reclamation projects.

He also asked to certify as urgent House Bill No. 2026 filed by the Makabayan bloc last year. The measure would declare Manila Bay a reclamation-free zone.

In its explanatory note, the bill cited the need to comply with a Supreme Court ruling ordering that the bay be cleaned up, rehabilitated, and preserved, to make it suitable for swimming and other forms of recreation.

“In our estimate, fishers incur losses of about 80% of their income and because there is nothing to catch in Manila Bay; some need to go out to Bataan, Zambales, and Mindoro,” Mr. Hicap said.

Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Marvin D. Rillo, vice-chair of the committee on Metro Manila development, said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is getting another P1.4 billion in new appropriations.

In a statement on Sunday, he said that the additional funding will aid in the clean-up and rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

“The DENR’s Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Management Strategy will be receiving another P1.4 billion in 2024. The sum is in addition to the P1.5 billion earmarked (for the operational plan) in this year’s national budget,” he said.

“We are all for the complete environmental restoration of Manila Bay for the enjoyment of future generations,” he added.

Mr. Rillo said the budget for the rehabilitation also covers the relocation of about 233,000 informal settler families that reside along the 190-kilometer coastline. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera