Congress urged to pass law vs. Manila Bay reclamation

Congress urged to pass law vs. Manila Bay reclamation
By Ding Cervantes

Feb 20, 2014

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Five groups jointly issued yesterday a call for Congress to pass a law declaring Manila Bay a land reclamationfree zone as they bared alleged plans of the government to allow the reclamation of some 26,234 hectares of the bay.

They said declaring Manila Bay a reclamation- free zone would “effectively stop the Office of the President, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and local government units from granting permits to private groups to conduct large-scale reclamation projects in the bay.”

The joint statement was issued by Sagip Manila Bay Movement (SMBM), Save Freedom Island Movement (SFIM), Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay), Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis partylist.

“We submit this humble plea to members of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives for them to enact a very strong law  that would decisively stop the government and private business from pursuing huge land reclamation along the entire stretch of Manila Bay. This will help save the livelihood of thousands, as well as the fragile environment from wholesale devastation,” said Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice chairperson.

They also said that unusual weather patterns caused by climate change all over the world would make proponents of land reclamation rethink their plans. The groups noted 102 reclamation projects under the National Reclamation Plan (NRP) of PRA and NEDA involving 38,000 hectares all over the country.

Seventy percent or 26,234 hectares of the reclamation projects will be carried out along the stretch of Manila Bay, they said. “Aside from massive displacement of small fisherfolk along Manila Bay and big damage to remaining coastal habitat and eco-system, further large-scale reclamation will promote massive flooding along the bay because land reclamation effectively blocks the natural pathways of river systems flowing into Manila Bay,” the joint statement said.

France said “lawmakers should know that reclamation will also alter the circulation of water, leading to reduction in water quality and increased pollution and changes in the physical natural environment resulting from reclamation can further lead to erosion, increased flood and typhoon risks, and high storm surges during tropical storms and torrential rains, resulting to the stirring up of heavy metals and toxins already deposited on the sea floor.”

He cited warnings of University of the Philippines geologist Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo “about potential lethal risks largescale reclamation might infl ict to many people.” “Land reclamation will speed up the sinking of the land along Manila Bay from the withdrawal of ground water of from the added weight of buildings or both,” he noted.

“Reclamation may bring combinations and dangers of surges and storm waves driven against the coasts by passing typhoons, as experienced during Pedring in 2011 and Habagat in 2013 in Manila and Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban last year,” he added.

Pamalakaya has issued a series of appeals to Malacanang to “recall approved reclamation projects in Manila Bay and other areas to help mitigate the impact of a possible major earthquake in Metro Manila anytime, as warned by scientists.”.

France also noted that “ in 2004, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs) made a study that concluded that Metro Manila is overdue for a catastrophic magnitude of 7.2 earthquake and it is possible that coastal communities in reclaimed areas would suffer most because of liquefaction that could be
worsened by land reclamation.”

He recalled that In 1968, Manila was hardhit by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake that had its epicenter in Casiguran, Quezon, 225 kilometers away. “Many structures that were built on river deposits near the mouth of the Pasig River were destroyed. The six-storey Ruby Tower in Binondo collapsed, killing 260 people,” he said.

“Instead of largescale reclamation, the Philippine government should promote the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, bankroll on mangrove reforestation and mobilize the people to improve the natural defense barrier of the bay against major earthquake to save the 25 million population of cities and provinces surrounding Manila Bay,” he added.

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