Duterte’s legacy to Marcos: Destructive reclamation projects
During his first days in power, Ferdinand Marcos Jr vetoed the bill that would create an economic zone in Bulacan where San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) grand Aerotropolis project is set to be constructed. He said the contract put the state at a disadvantage. In reality, he only wanted to renegotiate the project to his advantage. Two days after he blocked the bill, it was re-filed in the Senate by his sister Imee Marcos.
The ₱736-billion Aerotropolis project is one of the destructive, unscientific and anti-people projects that the Duterte regime handed over to Marcos. Other major projects in the application stage are the Sangley Point International Airport Reclamation Project (1,900 hectares) of the Remullas, the 1,500-acre plan of SM Prime Holdings in the Cordova coast in Cebu and the Cavite Province Land Reclamation and Development Project of the Revillas (1,332 hectares) awarded to Century Peak Corporation, a company owned by Duterte’s supporter Wilfredo Keng.
In addition, 120 projects at various levels of application, design and implementation are currently being handled by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA). About 50 are in Manila Bay.
Bureaucrat and bourgeoisie collusion
“Not in my time,” Rodrigo Duterte replied in 2020 when asked about his regime’s policy on reclamation. In the name of anti-corruption, he renegotiated the terms of various projects to squeeze kickbacks. Prior to this, he put the PRA under the office of the president to centralize the collection of bribes. At the end of his term, he authorized at least 30 reclamation projects. Thirteen are in Manila Bay. One of these, the Pasay Harbor City Reclamation Projects of his crony Dennis Uy and their Chinese contractor, is already under way. The biggest of the projects is the 650-hectare Navotas City Coastal Bay Reclamation Project of Argonbay Construction Company, owned by his “good friend,” SMC’s Ramon Ang.
According to a PRA report, five projects have already been given notice to commence actual reclamation (four in Manila Bay, one in Mandaue, Cebu), eight were given notice to proceed (five in Manila Bay and one each in Batangas, Samar and Minglanilla in Cebu) and 14 have signed agreements with local governments (four in Manila Bay, three in Cebu, two in Cagayan and one each in Batangas, Southern Leyte, Iloilo, Palawan and Surigao del Sur.) In total, 4,500 hectares of land in the form of islands and bay extensions will be reclaimed.
Most of the contracts were directly awarded by Duterte to his favored compradors and allies. Aside from Ang and Uy, Duterte awarded the Pasay Reclamation Project (360 hectares) to the Sy family. He allowed the Gatchalians’ Manila Waterfront City Reclamation Project to proceed, as well as the Romero’s Mandaue City North Reclamation and Development Project and the Leviste’s Batangas Port Reclamation Project. Duterte also allowed the reclamation of Horizon Manila by the Legaspi family, one of the largest private government contractors involved in anomalous projects under the former president Gloria Arroyo. The Manila City of Pearl Project of the UAA Kinming owned by his Chinese supporter Kitson Soriano Kho was also given the green light.
Outside the PRA, other applications include reclamation projects in Dumaguete City and another related to the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway project.
Contrary to touted projections of hundreds of thousands of new jobs, these projects generate only contractual, temporary and low-level employment for Filipinos. This is because almost all contracts use foreign companies—from designing to dredging to actual laying of islands. These include the China Harbor Engineering Company, a subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company, the same company behind illegal reclamation operations in the West Philippine Sea. (First part)