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Environmental groups oppose proposed Manila Bay reclamation project

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MANILA, Philippines—Civil society groups and environmentalists heaped criticisms on the proposed 148-hectare Manila Goldcoast Reclamation Project along Manila Bay during a hearing held on Monday.

Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, Environmental Sciences Professor at the University of Illinois, said the reclamation project would pose lethal risks to many people including danger of land subsidence, storm surges, storm waves and further ecological damage to coastal ecosystem.

Environmental groups are also opposing the agreement of the National Government and the National Reclamation Authority (NRA) to reclaim 148-hectares along Manila Bay, saying further reclamation would not only damage the remaining coastal habitat and eco-system but will also effectively block the natural pathways of the river system flowing into the bay, thus increasing the threats of massive flooding in Metro Manila.

Eloiza Tolentino, coordinator of the Eco-Waste Coalition, said the reclamation project would need 19 million cubic tons of sand that would destroy coastal ecosystem.

Tolentino added that this poses bigger and more critical impact on the environment.

Economic growth vs. Livelihood

The NRA said that the National Reclamation Project (NRP) would generate huge potential investments to achieve economic growth and other investments.  In a statement, Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno said the NRP would spell the future of the country’s capital city.

“This project is for the city that is dying from poverty,” said Moreno.  According to him, this would generate 500, 000 jobs for Manileños and urged the public to support the project.

Dr. Ed Alabastro of Technotrix, proponent of the project, said the NRP would also generate P10 billion tax for the city of Manila.

Meanwhile, Save Manila Bay Coalition, which is composed of environmental and civil society groups, said the NRP would be at the expense of livelihoods of fisherfolk and the urban poor. Added to this, the group said the NRP would also be at the expense of existing business investments as well as the city’s culture, heritage, and tourism.

Cardinal Tagle in his statement stressed the values of stewardship and good governance. “We should find solutions which are for the common good of the people and not for the interest of few individuals,” he said.

The Manila Goldcoast Development Corporation (MGDC) is the main proponent of the NRP.  MGDC plans to reclaim 148 hectares between the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the US Embassy.  MGDC argued that the NRP would propel sustainable development in the city and in the country as well. The company also cleared the issue on storm surges and massive flooding in the metropolis,  saying wave reflectors will be installed to prevent storm surges.

Buhay Partylist representative and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza , who is also present at the hearing,  presented pitfalls of the project.

Atienza said this would only further aggravate climate change, disasters, and flooding. This was seconded by his son Councilor Ali Atienza whose district will be greatly affected by the reclamation.

The public hearing on the proposed project was initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) but was later questioned by Rep.  Atienza because the members of the review committee were not even part of DENR and was deemed impartial.

Rodolfo, on the other hand, also questioned the credentials of the environmental experts of the proponents and the review committee saying, “It’s easy to say one is an expert, but they must show their credentials.”

Public citizens who attended the public hearing suggested that they be given a chance to talk and air their concerns on the said issue.

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