This is in response to the article “Bay reclamation: A treasure trove” written by Mr. Federico D. Pascual Jr. (PhiI. Star Opinion February 21, 2017). To put things in proper perspective and address the issues raised by the article, may we respond as follows:
1. On “pursuing more than 600 projects all over the country before 2022”, please be informed that the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) is neither the proponent nor the implementer of such projects. These applications for reclamation are being pursued by LGUs and their private sector partners. PRA acts as the primary regulatory agency of the government to assess the technical, environmental, financial and socio-economic merits of such projects. LGUs are exercising their authorities under the Local Government Code to do reclamation projects which they deem necessary for their own respective local jurisdictions, either through PPPs or Joint Ventures. These projects will eventually be elevated to the NEDA Board (chaired by the President) for final approval.
2. Adding land area to Metro Manila will address the problem of “urban sprawl” and provide agglomerative effects that will eventually boost economic growth.
3. Land subsidence is caused by over extraction of ground water. Over extraction of ground water in turn, is a consequence of heavy pressures exerted on urban communities by increasing population and increased economic activities, i.e., basement excavations of large buildings. We are not aware of any studies that directly correlate land subsidence in Metro Manila with the reclamation projects in Manila Bay. At any rate, PRA requires project proponents to prepare and submit ‘flooding and flushing studies’ by hydrology experts as part of the agency’s pre-construction and detailed engineering studies before approving any reclamation project. PRA requires the engineering design of the reclamation to provide for adequate channels, drainages and runoff discharges to the open sea as well as non-blockage of river outfalls and other flood paths.
4. On the issue of storm surges, if the reclaimed areas are designed and built higher than the highest recorded waves in Manila Bay (and these are done through sophisticated modelling methods by local and international engineering experts), they will serve as effective barriers and protection of the inland from coastal flooding. This was highlighted during the August 2012 (Habagat) where waves breached the seawall along the ‘open’ portion of the stretch of Roxas Boulevard from the Manila Yacht Club down to T.M. Kalaw and the area experienced flooding from the surge. The areas from the CCP all the way up to the Coastal Road in Las Pinas did not suffer severe flooding since the reclaimed areas with their seawalls and wave deflectors effectively blocked the waves.
5. With respect to the concerns on soil liquefaction, both science and engineering through the disciplines of ‘Soil Mechanics’ and ‘Geotechnical Engineering’ analyze liquefaction issues. This analysis enables civil, reclamation and geotechnical engineers to design not only for the structural integrity of buildings and foundations but even the “liquefaction strength” of the reclaimed land itself on which such structures are to be built. Geo-hazard risk assessment, on the other hand, covers known geological and environmental risks, such as earthquake faults, tsunamis, gas accumulations, etc. and the mitigation measures to be taken to address such risks. PRA also strictly requires project proponents to submit for PRA review and evaluation such studies as part of its requirements prior to issuing a Notice to Proceed.
6. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process addresses the effects of reclamation projects on the environment. An external review committee, separate from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR and composed of experts in various fields, reviews and evaluates the Environmental Impact studies prepared by reclamation proponents. The Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) to be issued by the DENR is part of the mandatory documents that must be submitted to PRA so that it can evaluate the reclamation project proposal and recommend its approval to the NEDA Board.
7. The award of the 148 hectare project to Elco Development Corp. (EDCC) in 1991, the assignment by EDCC of its rights to Manila Goldcoast Corp. (also in 1991) and the subsequent confirmation thereof by the PRA Board in 2012 were all duly reviewed and validated by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) in an opinion dated June 6, 2012.
Thousands of Filipinos have benefitted from completed reclamation projects that include the Cultural Center of the Philippines, PICC, the financial center area (PNB, GSIS, Senate, DFA), Mall of Asia complex, CAVITEX, the South Road Project (SRP) in Cebu and numerous ports and causeways nationwide. Negative consequences such as environmental degradation, flooding, land subsidence, etc. have not been established as being a direct consequence of these reclamation projects. LGUs bordering Manila Bay are all in need of additional space because of growth. They cannot encroach on the areas of their neighboring LGUs. The natural tendency therefore is to explore the possibility of a seaward extension within the area of the LGU’s territorial jurisdiction.
It is the waterfront that has attracted settlements and economic activity for generations all over the world. Most developed countries have responsibly utilized their waterfronts for coastal development while at the same time protecting the environment and the welfare of their people. In light of recent climate change phenomena, we should again look at the actions taken by other countries which have embarked on reclamation projects as a permanent and structurally sound solution to protect their coastlines.
In this regard, PRA’s thrusts are geared towards promoting “purposive” and “protective” reclamations. Purposive reclamations refer to “Legacy Islands on Water” (LIoW); islands that are liveable, resilient, safe, sustainable, green, generative, pro-people, future-proofed and innovative and a smart community. Protective reclamations on the other hand refers to an integrated coastal defense development based on the experience and best practices of renowned water experts such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Singapore. Already, PRA has completed a Coastal Defense Master Plan for Tacloban and Palo, Leyte, in partnership with the Dutch government. PRA will soon embark on replicating similar studies in other vulnerable coastlines of the Philippine archipelago.
ATTY. JANILO E. RUBIATO
General Manager & CEO
Philippine Reclamation Authority