Bishop thumbs down Manila Bay project

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MANILA, September 17, 2014—A Catholic prelate remains firm in his opposition to the Manila Bay reclamation project, stressing it should not be allowed to push through.

Manila Auxilliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo explained that sough-after economic progress does not have to mean the destruction of the environment and the subsequent increase in urban congestion.

Rural development needed

Pabillo, who chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Public (CBCP-ECPA), said investors, if they are sincerely after progress, should consider developing rural areas that badly need infrastructure, instead of focusing on Metro Manila.

The bishop told Church-run Radyo Veritas that rather than building establishments that will benefit only the well-off, investors should venture out into the agriculture sector, as well, which will vastly improve the condition of the rural poor.

“What our people really need are not hotels, not malls, not recreation centers, not casinos … but agriculture,” shared Pabillo, adding that anti-reclamation groups have yet to get in touch with the Manila city government and other stakeholders concerning the multibillion-peso project.

While they are open to dialogue with former President, now Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada, the bishop insisted they will fight the project just the same.

Twenty-one leaders of the Philippine Church hierarchy had earlier expressed concerns over the proposed reclamation in parts of Manila Bay in a letter to President Benigno S. Aquino III dated November 19, 2013.

Boost tourism, restore cultural sites

The bishops’ opposition hinges on a study conducted by experts warning about the probability of massive flooding and similar calamities hitting Las Piñas, Parañaque, and Pasay more frequently and destructively should the project push through.

Parts of this letter read:

“We are aware of 38 projects that involve reclaiming 26,234 hectares of Manila Bay. Our immediate concern, however, is the proposed reclamation of 300 hectares for Las Piñas/Parañaque; 300 hectares for Pasay; and most immediate, the 148 hectares for Manila, as the process of bidding for this has already begun. There are bigger lots being proposed for LPPCHEA [Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area], Navotas and Sangley. Already, even without these projects, former reclamations in these areas have resulted in disastrous flooding especially in Las Piñas, Parañaque, Malabon, Navotas and many towns and cities in Cavite, Bulacan and Pampanga, that now have serious need for dredging of water bodies to enable water flow more freely.”

“Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo and Dr. Fernando Siringan explained that Manila Bay reclamation is a very bad idea because of three serious geological hazards that reclamation proponents are ignoring or dismissing: First, even without reclamation, continuing rapid and accelerating subsidence of the coastal lands bordering the bay is worsening both floods and high-tide invasions. Second is the combination of surges and storm waves driven against our coasts by passing typhoons, such as those that devastated Roxas Boulevard during Typhoon Pedring in 2011.But the greatest hazard is liquefaction during earthquakes that destroys buildings in coastal areas, whether underlain by natural deposits like those of the Pasig river delta, or artificial reclamations.

The bishops also warned that the recent 7.2 earthquake that hit the Visayas last year shows a possible scenario of what could happen if such an earthquake occurred in the Manila Bay area.

According to the prelates, it would be “wiser” to channel funds and resources into boosting tourism, restoring cultural and historical sites rather than building on reclaimed land to the “detriment of the livelihood of people and the environment.” (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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