MANILA, Feb. 6, 2014—In keeping with Vatican teaching, a high-ranking church official denounced as “immoral” the multi-billion peso projects that will reclaim land from the Manila Bay, of which developers boast will give jobs to thousands of Filipinos.
But Manila Auxiliary Archbishop Broderick S. Pabillo, in an interview with the CBCP News, was not impressed.
The said projects, he explained, will “benefit only the rich and powerful”.
“Napakasama talaga niyan [the projects], kaya naman kaming mga obispo ay mariing tinututulan iyan,” Pabillo told the CBCP News in Filipino. [The projects are immoral, and that is why we bishops are standing up to them.]
Pabillo, who also chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, questioned the claim that these projects will improve the lot of the Filipino poor.
“Hindi. Gaya ng dati, mga mayayaman lamang ang talagang makikinabang sa mga proyekto. Pero paano naman ang mga mahihirap nating kababayan?” said he. [No. As usual, only the wealthy ones will stand to gain from the project. But what about our underprivileged countrymen?]
Church leaders led by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle had earlier expressed concern over the projects in a letter to President Aquino dated November 19, 2013.
In it, the bishops cited similar reclamation deals in places like Navotas, Malabon, Cavite, Bulacan, and Pampanga where incidents of flooding have gone from bad to worse.
They also lamented that the decision allowing these projects were “determined only by financial considerations”.
Boosting tourism and preserving culture by restoring old historical sites rather than building on reclaimed land at the expense of people’s livelihood and the environment are a superior option, the bishops added.
Pabillo warned of the projects’ potentially disastrous impact on the ecosystem saying it “will increase the chances of flashfloods and storm surges in nearby communities.”
He also called on Filipinos to “respect the ecological balance”, so that “a tragedy like Yolanda would not happen again.”
Various advocacy groups also fear that the reclamation projects would adversely affect local livelihood, notably fishing.
Some 30,000 to 50,000 families, mostly in Navotas, Malabon, and the coastal villages of Cavite and Bataan, depend on the Manila Bay for their income.
Salvador France of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) maintained that the bay must be free of reclamation projects “to stop the wholesale loss of people’s livelihood and prevent natural and man-made calamities in the future.”
At issue here is the multibillion-peso worth of projects in key locations fronting the scenic Manila Bay.
Shopping mall magnate Henry Sy’s P54.5-billion proposal involves the reclamation and development of nearly 300 hectares of the offshore and onshore bay areas within Pasay.
Another firm, the William Tieng-owned Manila GoldCoast Development Corp. (MGDC) is set to reclaim 148 hectares in Manila proper which will be called the “Manila Solar City”.
MGDC Vice Chairman Edmundo Lim said the Manila Solar City is envisioned as a “world-class commercial, residential and tourism center”.
This project, Lim boasted, will provide jobs to over 600,000 Filipinos.
The most extensive of these proposals, the P14-billion Alltech Coastal Bay Project which stretches from Parañaque up to Bacoor, Cavite, will reclaim close to 635 hectares of the Manila Bay coastline.
It covers the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, which is home to more than 195 species of birds, including endangered ones. (Raymond A. Sebastián)