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Suspension of Manila Bay reclamation projects seen to discourage foreign investors

THE PHILIPPINE government earlier this month suspended reclamation projects in Manila Bay to assess their environmental and social impact. — PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

THE SUSPENSION of the reclamation projects in Manila Bay may discourage the entry of more investments in the country, according to some business groups.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President George T. Barcelon said the government’s recent move to halt reclamation projects in Manila Bay creates “unnecessary uncertainty” for investors.

“In the business world, a contract should be honored. If they (investors) see this, they would be concerned and they might step back. That is a concern. The other concern is if a lot of businesses are legitimate and we do something like that, other countries may also be concerned,” he told BusinessWorld via mobile phone.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. earlier this month suspended all reclamation projects in Manila Bay, except for one, as the government reassesses their overall long-term impact on the environment.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has not given a timeline for the completion of the review of the reclamation projects.

“The issue of inconsistent policy is one but stopping projects is something that will really terrorize possible investors… Now I think they will all disappear because of this,” Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said in an ANC interview on Aug. 19.

Mr. Ortiz-Luis said foreign investors have always been concerned about dealing with the Philippines due to inconsistent policies.

“That is why they choose Vietnam or Thailand. In the case of the reclamation, to advertise that we are halting (reclamation) projects is really damaging,” he added. 

Mr. Ortiz-Luis said Manila Bay reclamation projects would have provided more areas for expansion in Manila and Pasay.

“The reclamation can give spaces where the city can expand, bring new technology. The planned expansion will deescalate prices of land in the area. With the additional land that will be reclaimed, the price will stabilize and be more affordable,” he added.   

Mr. Ortiz-Luis urged the government to make a final decision on the issue of reclamation projects.

“The government has to decide… We cannot have this track record of rescinding contracts because it will destroy our credibility worldwide… It is unfortunate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said investors would be concerned over the lack of policy certainty and the change in rules while projects are already being implemented.

“There should be a dispute mechanism through a special local court with quicker resolution as well as courts in the region, especially for foreign investors for the country’s various infrastructure projects that are long-term in nature and involves large amounts of capital,” he said in a Viber message.

“The faster the resolution is, the better.”

The US embassy previously expressed concern that a Manila Bay reclamation project was being undertaken by a China-owned company. China Communications Construction Co. was blacklisted by Washington in 2020, along with other companies after it allegedly assisted the Chinese military in building and militarizing artificial islands in the South China Sea. — R.M.D.Ochave

Neil Banzuelo

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