Groups urge Congress to pass law declaring Manila Bay a reclamation free zone

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Groups urge Congress to pass law declaring Manila Bay a reclamation free zone

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Billy Javier Reyes 

 Manila, Philippines- Manila Bay based groups Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis partylist, Sagip Manila Bay Movement (SMBM), Save Freedom Island Movement (SFIM) and Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay) today asked lawmakers to pass a law declaring the bay of Manila from South to North free from any large-scale land reclamation activities.

In a joint statement press statement, the groups said Congress has to legislate a new law that would declare Manila Bay a reclamation free zone area to 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 along the bay.

“We hereby submit this humble plea to members of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives, directing our lawmakers to enact a very strong law that decisively stop the government and private business from pursuing huge land reclamation along the entire stretch of Manila Bay. A law declaring Manila Bay free from large-scale and destructive reclamation will help save the livelihood and the fragile environment from wholesale devastation,” said Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice chairperson.

The groups said there are 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.

 Aside from massive displacement of small fisherfolk along Manila Bay and big damage to remaining coastal habitat and eco-system, opposition groups maintained that further large-scale reclamation will promote massive flooding along the bay  because land reclamation effectively block the natural pathways of river systems flowing into Manila Bay.

The Pamalakaya leader said lawmakers should be informed that reclamation will also alter the circulation of water, leading to reduction in water quality and increased pollution. France argued that 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 in the sea floor.

Pamalakaya likewise reiterated the observations raised by Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo about potential lethal risks large-scale reclamation might inflict to many people. The group said 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.

The militant group also maintained that 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.

Pamalakaya has persistently asked Malacanang to recall to recall reclamation projects in Manila Bay and other areas to help mitigate the impact, in case a major earthquake hits MetroManila in the next decades.

The group 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 the main capital is overdue to experience a catastrophic magnitude of 7.2 earthquake and it is possible that coastal communities in reclaimed areas would suffer most because of liquefaction worsened or hastened by land reclamation.

Pamalakaya said reclaimed areas in Manila Bay would not require an earthquake to occur nearby to suffer serious damage. In 1968, Manila was hard-hit by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake 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-story Ruby Tower in Binondo collapsed, killing 260 people. Citing recent studies made by experts, the Pamalakaya leader noted that the strong earthquake that hit Nueva Ecija in 1990, also devastated Baguio City which is 100 kilometers away from Nueva Ecija and the coastal city of Dagupan in Pangasinan, which is also 100 kilometers away from Baguio City also suffered liquefaction that caused buildings to collapse, sink into the ground or become tilted and unusable.

Pamalakaya suggested that instead of large-scale reclamation, the Philippine government should promote the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, bank roll 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. ###

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