No to Manila Bay’s further reclamation
Much has been said about the impending reclamation of 26,230 hectares of Manila Bay. One administration reelectionist lawmaker said the bay cleanup would be useless if it would be “cemented” for the reclamation. In a hearing at the House of Representatives, a party-list congressman reportedly “fumed” when an official of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) admitted that reclamation would result in adverse environmental effects, but the plan would proceed nevertheless because “the developers are instituting systems to mitigate these effects.” (“Gov’t processing 22 Manila Bay reclamation projects,” 2/12/19).
In a teleradyo program interview, a newbie government official dismissed such apprehensions, saying these were part of a “left-leaning” propaganda. A YouTube reporter also slammed “left-leaning” organizations for expressing wariness about the bay’s cleanup as this might only be a prelude to massive reclamation.
This is a valid concern. I think of hundreds of poor Filipino residents, such as former fishermen in the area, who lost their livelihood when the toxic level of the ocean heightened. Unfortunately, “left-leaning” has become a convenient scapegoat for certain people who just want to evade an issue not to their liking.
The Makabayan bloc has filed House Bill No. 9067 declaring the bay a reclamation-free zone, but the lawmakers will be back in session only after the May elections, while three pending applications are nearing approval. When Congress resumes, the Makabayan lawmakers would likely have a hard time getting their bill approved by “vested” interests among their colleagues. And the bill will still have to pass the Senate. By then, it could be “all systems go” for the reclamation.
“Three geological reasons make near-shore reclamation a very bad idea that poses lethal risks to many people: land subsidence, storm surges, and earthquake-induced enhanced ground-shaking and liquefaction,” said professor Kelvin Rodolfo, an internationally reputable geologist, in his article, “On the geological hazards that threaten existing and proposed reclamations of Manila Bay.” He bewailed how “the ongoing rush to execute several of these projects is alarming in how little its proponents seem to understand the littoral environment, and their seeming indifference to the hazards it poses.”
Subsidence or sinking of coastal areas due to overuse of groundwater and sea-level rise due to the “uneven heating of the oceans” is aggravating flooding in Metro Manila. (We have seen this happen on Roxas Boulevard, while the reclamation of Dagat-dagatan has caused intermittent flooding in Navotas, Malabon, Valenzuela, Caloocan and Obando.) Storm surges and storm waves riding on these surges wreak much havoc, but reclamation proponents do not show how the affected areas will be protected against these dangers.
Decisive action is urgently needed. A presidential executive order will suffice until a law banning reclamation is enacted, and before the initial horror starts: heavy equipment and voluminous debris from the reclamation destroying what remains of the marine habitats, including the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area; massive quarrying from mountains and the sea for sand, gravel and earth; and the possible dumping of all sorts of mixed wastes.
A massive education campaign and the sustained encouragement of best practices among the people on ecological waste management — something hardly addressed by the local governments — will ensure that, after the initial rehabilitation efforts and with the rains back, no garbage will return to Manila Bay. With a sincere leadership and the people’s cooperation, not only in carrying out ecological waste management but also in bringing about an ecological lifestyle, we could look forward to the genuine transformation of the cities along the bay and, who knows, maybe throughout the country.
We must also work for environmental justice for poor Filipinos, the stark majority in this country. They do not need solar cities or casinos where only the rich locals and foreigners can flaunt their wealth. We do not need to reclaim land from the sea to achieve productivity, creativity, genuine progress. What we need is to reclaim our seas, mountains and forests from foreign interests and their local cohorts.
Ban sea-grabbing, and ban reclamation.
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Joey C. Papa ([email protected]) is president of Bangon Kalikasan Movement.
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