Its impact is long-term – once tons upon tons of soil are dumped into the sea, the loss of marine life and ecological balance cannot be immediately replaced – and the resultant flooding through water level rise cannot be immediately addressed.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Flooding is already a big problem in Metro Manila, but it would even get worse if the government would push through with its planned full implementation of 38 reclamation projects in Manila Bay. This is the warning aired by environmentalists grouped together in Save the Bay Alliance in a protest action, Sunday (July 20), at the Baywalk in Roxas Blvd. in front of Rajah Sulayman Park. The group’s action was spurred by Typhoon Glenda, which hit most parts of Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions, and the report they got from sources among government officials that reclamation in Manila Bay has actually begun. The alliance has been opposing the reclamation projects since the Aquino government unveiled its top Private-Public partnership projects.
In what the Save the Bay alliance and other green groups describe as the largest reclamation project ever reported in history, 26,234 hectares of the bay will be reclaimed through Public-Private partnership reclamation projects that also cover parts of provinces of nearby Cavite, Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga. Once the sea is pushed back with massive dumping to extend the shoreline available for real estate development, there are planned building of new roads, infrastructure, buildings, artificial islands, airports, condominiums, entertainment cities and business parks. These are to be owned by the private sector led by the likes of mall king Henry Sy. As it is, one of his largest malls, the Mall of Asia, is located on reclaimed land south of Manila. Its address is now “Seaside Blvd.” in Pasay City, and it is one of the reported renewed reclamation that the protesters fear may have started already despite lingering legal questions.
The Pasay City government has entered an agreement http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/17/sm-reclamation-project-faces-snag/ a few months ago allowing SM Land to reclaim 300 hectares of the west side of Manila Bay, from Sofitel Hotel up to the boundary of Pasay City and Paranaque City, practically extending the now MOA property.
The Aquino government and involved local government units have previously claimed the reclamation projects will bring in investments and development. But, according to former Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, spokesperson of Save the Bay Alliance, the costs in terms of environmental damages and livelihoods are higher. Its impact is long-term – once tons upon tons of soil are dumped into the sea, the loss of marine life and ecological balance cannot be immediately replaced – and the resultant flooding through water level rise cannot be immediately addressed.
“We have submitted to the court documents and research results showing the adverse impact of reclamation to the flow of water and flood prevention,” Palatino said. Since 2011, reclamation projects in Manila Bay have alternately been approved, thumbed down, appealed and then approved again, he said.
City mayors, the environmentalist alliance also noted, often do not have contrary position to reclamation while they are in power.
The Save the Bay Alliance has long warned the government that the impact of reclamation would be terrible. Aside from the environmental destruction and flooding brought by the permanent rise of water level of Manila Bay, the Save the Bay Alliance fears other social costs. These include the devastation of lives and livelihoods of more than 9 million people living across the coastal areas of the Manila Bay; looming food shortage brought by the possible damage of our marine resources; and violation of national patrimony among others.
In Aquino’s upcoming State of the Nation Address, the green groups urged him to declare a halt to all ongoing reclamation projects, especially if it is true that reclamation is already underway for the expansion of Henry Sy’s MOA. They also questioned if the US Embassy in Manila, which lies along Roxas Blvd. with the Manila Bay behind, has also benefitted from reclamation.
Palatino said reclamation is treated as “a last resort” in development in other countries. In a previous speech in Congress calling for a stop to reclamation, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar cited the looming loss of mangroves, a known shield against storm and surges, if the reclamation projects in various stages of implementation, involving 38,000 hectares of coastlines (26 thousand of which are in Manila Bay), are not stopped soon.