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Reclamation projects real cause of storm surge in Manila Bay

Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:48 am | Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and the Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay) principally blame the long-running reclamation activities in Manila Bay for the “storm surge” which struck the bay at the height of Typhoon “Pedring.”

We don’t buy the idea that the storm surge was chiefly caused by Pedring’s strong winds. The winds were just an external factor. The principal cause of the storm surge was the reclamation projects in Manila Bay. In fact, the storm surge happened not only in Roxas Boulevard but also along the entire stretch of the bay from Cavite to Bataan province.

According to Pagasa, a storm surge is a phenomenon characterized by a rush of seawater, propelled by strong winds toward the coast. But our own science, based on generations of experience, points to the unstoppable reclamation activities in Manila Bay. There was no storm surge before in Manila Bay until these across-the-bay, large-scale reclamation activities became a “corporate craze” in the ’70s. Since then, the movement and flow of the waters inside the bay have changed.

It is an undeniable fact that 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay waters have been reclaimed over the last 30 to 40 years to give way to special economic zone projects in Bataan and Cavite; the Manila Film Center and the GSIS Building in Pasay City; the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Folk Arts Theater in Manila; and the SM Mall of Asia and other commercial companies in the cities of Pasay and Parañaque.

In 2006, the national government, through the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and its contractor partner UEM-Mara Philippine Corp., reclaimed an additional 7,500 hectares of coastal waters off Manila Bay for the R-1 Expressway Extension Project, which was annexed to the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road Project. On June 21, 2007, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Executive Order 629 directing the PRA to develop Sangley Point in Cavite City into a logistical hub with a modern seaport and an airport, citing the R-1 Expressway Extension Project as an enabling component.

President Aquino should stop the North Bay Boulevard Project (NBBP) in Navotas City that will entail the reclamation of not less than 5,000 hectares of foreshore lands to the detriment of more than 20,000 fishing and urban poor families who will be immediately displaced once this national project proceeds.

The policy and program of reclamation over the last four decades have made Manila Bay vulnerable to storm surges. Unless the Philippine government stops private interests from reclaiming the foreshore areas of the bay, storm surges will soon become a regular occurrence in Manila Bay. It is high time for President Aquino to ban reclamation projects and to pursue instead a real rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

— FERNANDO HICAP, national chair, Pamalakaya; fisherfolk convenor, KKK-Manila Bay, 18-A Mabuhay St., Central District, Quezon City