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November 26, 2013

Manila Bay Reclamation: Development or Potential Tragedy?

As if Ondoy and some noted strong typhoons and habagat were not enough warnings, Manila is presently facing a new development that would expose it to further risks. I am talking about the Manila Bay reclamation which is presently undergoing the process of environmental approval. The recent consultation attended by Goldcoast Development Corporation, its primary developer, and representatives from different cities and dioceses led by Dr. Kevin Rodolfo, a marine geology expert, revealed a lot about the dangers of the project. The reclamation is connected with the development of the coast to an entertainment city. It will affect people from Bataan to Cavite.


After much consultation and study, the Metropolitan Ecological and Environmental Concerns Network, composed of the Ministry of Ecology of the Archdiocese of Manila, representatives from different affected archdioceses and dioceses, Atty. Galahad Pe Benito, and other interested parties, came up with a position paper endorsed by the CBCP. A letter to the president stating opposition to the development and request to stop it was also composed and sent. The position letter is very informative. Let me present it here and will explain it more later.


Metropolitan Ecological & Environmental Concerns Network of Manila

c/o Archdiocese of Manila Ministry on Ecology

2002 Jesus St.,Pandacan Manila

Tel/Fax # 02-5619975

Email Add:


(The Metropolitan Ecological & Environmental Concerns Network of Manila conducted a forum on December 4, 2012 at the Arzobispado de Manila Bldg, Intramuros,Manila. It was not a public forum but an inquiry on the proposed Manila Bay Reclamation Project. The contention of Goldcoast Development Corporation that is already a part of the consultation process to comply with the social acceptability on the proposed project is baseless and manipulative. All those who were invited to the forum were informed in advance that it was not a public consultation.)

Why do we oppose the Manila Bay Reclamation Project? Development for whom and at the expense of what?

The Manila Bay is regarded as the best natural harbour in Southeast Asia and in the world. It is only natural and proper to defend this protected area. While the Manila Reclamation Project is purportedly about development, it is not about genuine development. It is acknowledged that its very high social ecological and humanitarian cost outweighs the economic benefits it hopes to reap. The project not benefit the poorest of the poor as they are the first to be displaced and deprived of dwellings and livelihood as shown by previous reclamation projects.

This reclamation project disrespects God’s creation, violates the rule of law, and puts lives in danger. At a time when most countries have adopted a “retreat or defend” approach to climate change, our authorities are choosing not to safeguard and protect the environment and, instead, are challenging Mother Nature to unleash her fury.

Who will benefit, who will be sacrificed by the projects? We remind our present government that development must be integral and must promote the good of all and of the whole person. (Populorum Progressio #14)

Pope Francis, in his inaugural homily, said, “Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves!”

1. Geophysical effects of reclamation.

According to Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo this reclamation poses lethal risks to many people. Dr. Rodolfo who is professor emeritus of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the University of Illinois, Chicago, cites three geological reasons for this.   Based on the many researches he has done on this subject, he made this commentary amid the mounting concern about the accelerating moves toward reclaiming various portions of near shore Manila Bay. He cites these three very significant occurrences: 

a.      Land subsidence

First, even without reclamation, continuing rapid and accelerating subsidence of the coastal lands bordering the bay is worsening both floods and high-tide invasions. Philippine authorities now generally accept that global warming is raising sea level by about three (3) millimeters per year, and worry about how this rise must be aggravating Metro Manila flooding .  But that is only about 1 ¼ inch every ten years! The land is subsiding about 30 times faster, mainly from over-pumping of groundwater.  Reclamation may well speed up the sinking of the land, from withdrawal of groundwater, or from the added weight of new buildings, or both.

 b.      Storm surges and waves

The second geologic threat to reclaimed areas is the combination of surges and storm waves driven against our coasts by passing typhoons. Powerful, but still poorly recognized and understood hazards, storm surges are increasing in strength and frequency as our climate change.  Reports from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) indicate that the coastal areas targeted for reclamation experience typhoon surges up to four (4) meters high. Depending on how long the typhoon winds last, and the timing and heights of the normal tides, a storm surge and the flooding it causes can last from hours to days.

c.      Liquefaction during earthquakes

But by far the greatest hazard that threatens coastal areas, whether underlain by natural deposits like those of the Pasig river delta or artificial reclamations, is seismically-induced liquefaction. This is true for California’s Bay area as well as Manila Bay.

Reclaimed areas in Manila Bay would not require an earthquake to occur nearby to suffer serious damage. In 1968, Manila was hit hard 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.

Have the proponents of reclamation not considered the 2004 earthquake impact study for Metro Manila conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PhilVocS) The main conclusion of that study is that Metro Manila is overdue to experience a catastrophic Magnitude 7.2 earthquake. Furthermore, in all its possible earthquake scenarios, the coastal areas would suffer most, because of liquefaction.

2. The negative effects of development by ignoring  Science  as revealed by the lessons of history  such as:

In the 1980s, poorly designed lahar dikes were being built at Mayon Volcano despite the scientific objections raised by Dr. Rodolfo[r1] .  Those dikes continued to be built until super typhoon Reming destroyed them all in 2006, killing 1,266 people who had sought safety by living behind them.

During the 1990s, lahar-dike builders repeated the same mistakes on a much larger scale at Pinatubo Volcano.  Again, informed scientists including Dr. Rodolfo objected to no avail.  [r2] In October 1995, lahars generated by tropical storm Mameng breached badly constructed dikes and totally destroyed Barangay Cabalantian in Bacolor, Pampanga, killing hundreds of people.

During the 2000s, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) built numerous costly but ineffective flood-control structures in Central Luzon and Metro Manila’s KAMANAVA district.  No objections raised by Academician Siringan and Dr. Rodolfo[r3] made any difference.  Year after year, they fail, and more money is spent on cosmetic repairs.

3.      Destruction of marine life

“The research teams found promise after studying samples taken by visiting Greenpeace ship m/v Esperanza on a survey of the capital’s body of water known for its awe-inspiring sunset, but now ranked among the world’s most polluted. Citing water quality findings, the researchers said the toxicity level has not made the bay unfit for marine life such as hasa-hasa, bisugo, squid, crab, shrimp, oyster and mussels, sustaining the livelihood of settlers along the coastline of Cavite, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan. There is hope of restoration of Manila Bay’s marine resources Manila Bay, with all its pollution, still contains life and gives life,” Dr. Laura David of UP-MSI told Manila Standard Today newspaper ( July 24, 2013)

4.       Legal issues

a.      National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act

This law provides for the establishment and management of protected areas in the Philippines. The Manila Bay Area is reserved for National Park purposes, therefore, a protected area and deserves conservation and protection.

b.     Presidential Proclamation No.  41

Manila Bay, too, was one of the objects of adulation by President Ramon Magsaysay that in 1954, he declared this area to be a national park under Proclamation No. 41. This law reserved for national park purposes the Manila Bay area (then known as the Manila Bay Beach Resort,) and withdrew the same from sale or settlement of humankind. The president saw to it that future generations of Filipinos will continue to enjoy this area. He therefore intended the preservation of Manila Bay to be one of the lasting legacies to the Filipino people.

c.      Republic Act 9147 (Wildlife Act of 2001)

d.     Manila Bay Declaration (2001) and the Manila Bay is one of the sites of the Partnership of the Environmental Management of the Seas in East Asia (PEMSEA).

e.   Poor compliance of the Mandamus of the Supreme Court on the Mandatory Cleanup and Rehabilitation of Manila Bay by the various government agencies. En Banc Decision December 18, 2008

f.       R.A. 9275 or the Clean Water Act of the Philippines

The Clean Water Act Law of the Philippines aims to promote and encourage the protection of the country’s water resources. To fully encourage local governments, water districts, communities, and the private sector to partake in efforts on reducing water pollution, provisions on incentives are provided for in the law.

In the end, these concerns generate more fundamental questions of the rule of law and as Dr. Rodolfo voiced out in behalf of many well meaning scientists:

“Today, it seems that science is again being blithely ignored by the financial interests and government authorities promoting the various reclamation projects. Will we never learn?”

Once more this project wants to prove that the projected development is for the benefit of a few and not of the majority of our people, especially the poor.



Rev. Fr. Benito B. Tuazon


Archdiocese of Manila Ministry on Ecology

Rev. Fr. Octavio Bartiana

Minister, Ecology Ministry

Diocese of Kalookan

Rev. Fr. John Leydon, MSC

Parish Priest

Our Lady of Remedies Parish

Rev. Fr. Roland Aquino, SVD

Vicar Forane

Vicariate of San Jose de Trozo

Msgr. Hernando Coronel


Ministry on Public Affairs

Msgr. Albert Salonga, Jr.

Vicariate Ecology Priest Coordinator

Vicariate of Holy Spirit

Rev. Fr. Eduardo Hila, SDB

Parish Priest

St.John Bosco Parish

Msgr. Cesar Pagulayan

Vicar Forane

Vicariate of Our Lady of Sta. Clara de Montefalco

Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio


Commission on Media & Communication

Rev. Fr. Bienvenido Miguel


Ministry on Human Development

Diocese of Antipolo

Atty. Galahad Pe Benito

Legal Counsel

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