17feb21-Bay reclamation: A treasure trove

POSTSCRIPT / February 21, 2017 / Tuesday
Bay reclamation: A treasure trove
By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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OFFICIALS of coastal communities may have discovered a treasure trove in their bay areas being reclaimed by developers paying no heed to warnings that all that new land will eventually be taken back by the sea as climate change creeps in.

So now there is a rush for reclamation projects. In Metro Manila, 360 hectares is set to be reclaimed for the Mall of Asia in Pasay City. In Manila, City Hall is agog with the 148-hectare reclamation by Manila Goldcoast Development Corp., which will take over the Philippine Navy property and the Manila Yacht Club to build out into the bay what they are calling the Solar City project.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez himself has gleefully announced 96 reclamation projects, which he says will generate hundreds of billions of pesos in revenues for the government.

Even more gleefully, the Philippine Reclamation Authority (the offspring of the Public Estates Authority-Amari, the “grandmother of all scams”) has announced it is looking at over 600 reclamation projects!

On the other hand, Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo (who gained attention with his uncommon statements about Mount Pinatubo after it erupted in 1991) cited “three very good reasons why reclaiming near-offshore Manila Bay is a very bad idea.” He said:

• First, Manila is subsiding very rapidly as its groundwater is extracted at an alarming rate by a burgeoning population.

•Second, there is the specter of storm surges such as we had with “Pedring,” a Category-4 tropical cyclone in 2011. Sofitel hotel, the US embassy, Aloha hotel, and Aristocrat restaurant were then inundated. The embassy shut down for a week, Sofitel for a year-and-a-half.

Typhoon Yolanda’s storm surges carried a large ship hundreds of meters inland, killed (the government stopped counting) 6,000, and rendered homeless tens of thousands in Tacloban alone. Other areas in Leyte, Samar and Cebu were also swept by storm surges.

Planners must factor in the fact that typhoons are expected to become stronger and more destructive as climate change progresses. Climate change is not a “hoax,” not a Chinese invention, as Donald Trump declared when he was campaigning for the US presidency.

• Third, liquefaction is a deadly hazard during earthquakes. Grains of sediment rest on each other, the spaces between them occupied by water. As the earth shakes, the grain-to-grain contacts break, and the water and the sediment behave as slurry without strength.

Many buildings in Dagupan sank in the morass during the 1990 earthquake, although its epicenter was in Nueva Ecija hundreds of kilometers away. In the earlier 1968 earthquake, Ruby Tower, close to the Pasig River in Manila, collapsed (also because of inferior construction), killing 249. Liquefaction was also blamed.

Seismologists and officials never tire warning that the Big One (magnitude 7.2) may hit the national capital any day soon, taking thousands of human lives, as they note that the West Valley Fault in Marikina is “ripe” for a major upheaval.

■ Early hazard warnings taken lightly

PRESIDENT Ramon Magsaysay’s Proclamation No. 41 in 1954 reserved coastal areas of Manila Bay in Manila, Pasay, and Parañaque as a national park known as the Manila Bay Beach Resort.

In 1992, Manila’s City Council prohibited the bay’s reclamation under Goldcoast’s project, but reversed itself in 2011, both actions taken during the term of Mayor Alfredo Lim. Mayor Erap Estrada inherited the fruits of the reversal — while still eyeing similar projects near Port Area.

Way back in the 1970s, First Lady Imelda Marcos had the Malabon-Navotas area reclaimed to provide more land for the poor.

Look at the place now — it’s not called Dagat-dagatan for nothing, as the area has been claimed by the sea (dagat). Way into the interior, Malabon’s main street, General Luna, is flooded even in the dry season. No longer can heritage aficionados go to Malabon to appreciate its very old vintage homes.

The Manila Goldcoast Development Corp. has acquired the 148-hectare reclamation contract — illegally, according to the Save Our Shores group.

(Save Our Shores is a group of professionals, students, and fishermen covering Cavite to Navotas — the Pambansang Samahan ng mga Mangingisda at Namamalakaya sa Pilipinas [Pamalakaya] and the urban poor in Malate called Samahan ng mga Maralitang Pinag-isa Parokya ng Malate led by community leader Tet Sambale.)

The original contract was approved for awarding by the Public Estates Authority board to EDCC (Elco Development and Constructions Corp.) on Jan. 31, 1991. The firm was to open an escrow deposit of P20 million within 60 days from March 21, 1991, when the PRA issued the formal “Notice of Award” for reclamation of the 148 hectares.

However, EDCC ceded the project to the Goldcoast Development Corp., assigning all its rights and obligations to the latter via a Deed of Assignment dated June 6, 1991, when Goldcoast deposited P20 million in escrow.

Save Our Shores maintains that with the way it was handled, the deal is off. It noted that the award was granted to EDCC, not to Goldcoast, yet it was the latter that deposited P20 million, although it was never part of the bidding process and the reclamation project.

Did the PRA act illegally by confirming the award to Goldcoast on April 1, 2011? Yes, said Save Our Shores. The courts will have to rule on that.

Other questions have been raised also on the bay reclamation’s effects on traffic, water and power supply, and sewage in the area. Is anybody listening?

(First published in The Philippine STAR of February 21, 2017)

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