Philippines Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who has made headlines in recent months for his vehement opposition of the POGO industry, has denied any direct involvement in a Php 34.3 billion (US$611 million) Manila Bay reclamation project being led by his family’s Waterfront Manila Premier Development Inc (MWPDI).
However, he told the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Forum last week that he knows all processes have been properly followed amid concerns raised by the US Embassy – particularly around the involvement of Chinese construction firm China Communications Construction Co (CCCC), which is blacklisted by Washington.
The project by Waterfront Manila Premier Development Inc is located to the south of Manila South Harbor and is set to include an entertainment complex with a casino as well as a central business district, health and education hubs. It will cover 318 hectares of reclaimed and existing land.
According to a report by Philstar, Senator Gatchalian told last week’s forum upon being questioned, “I don’t deny that my father is connected to the project. I know for a fact that reclamation projects here behind the Sofitel Philippine Plaza … all went through the process. I don’t deny that (it’s) my dad’s project, but I don’t meddle with the business.
“It went through a thorough process. PRA (Philippine Reclamation Authority) and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) issued permits. They have gone through the process. It would be unfair if they question it now. Let’s respect the process.”
Last year, the PRA issued a permit allowing MWPDI to start reclamation of 318 hectares of foreshore and offshore areas in Manila Bay upon full payment of the initial regulatory fee.
The planned project, will include a central business district as well as health, entertainment and education hubs. This covers the P34.3-billion reclamation and horizontal development of 318 hectares along Manila Bay.
It has already been the subject of controversy, with the Makati Trial Court in April 2022 ruling that MWPDI’s agreement with the Manila city government was null and void due to an uncompetitive bidding process and allegations the project infringed on another reclamation project. The decision was overturned in August last year with the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) subsequently granting approval for MWPDI to proceed with the development.
The PRA also last week joined Gatchalian in dismissing US Embassy concerns over the involvement of CCCC, stating, “We have not received any categorical blacklisting against this corporation. These are all allegations from news outside the Philippines, that they are involved in the reclamation of the WPS (West Philippine Sea), the artificial islands, so their permits were processed. So we assume that they are doing business here in a legal manner or they are lawfully engaged in business right now.”
CCCC is one of a number of companies the US has identified as being involved in “militarization and coercion in the South China Sea” and has also been named by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank for alleged engagement in fraudulent business practices.