Will Manila Solar City Reclamation Project Cause Flooding?

Or The Pseudo-science Mumbo Jumbo of Lory Tan, WWF-Philippines President

Remember these words well the next time you encounter an environmentalist of one sort or another:

Environmentalism is a creed of mysticism. While it often tries to display a veneer of science, it in fact rejects reason and science. It regularly makes claims that are divorced from any objective evidence.

In Moral Defense of Forestry, Peter Schwartz. Posted in Ayn Rand Center, January 28, 2000

The following post further strengthens the point conveyed to me by fellow blogger and critical thinker Froi of Vincenton Post.

People should be wary about claims made by supposed authorities and media personalities.  Don’t just take their word for Gospel truth just because they’re on radio, TV, or in the newspapers.  Don’t just believe people just because they’ve got fancy titles from supposedly big deal organizations.

We’re no longer kids in elementary where we are expected to believe everything the teacher says.  We’re not in a church where we’re supposed to just bow down our heads and say “Amen” to everything the priest or pastor says.  We no longer live in a time when we have to kowtow to landlords

This is the blogosphere where the claims of supposed authorities and members of the establishment press are shaken out of their ivory towers and challenged on equal footing.

lory tan wwf ceo vice chairman 2
Photo from tatak digista on blogspot.

Today, up for examination is a statement from WWF CEO and Vice Chairman Lory Tan that the Manila Solar City reclamation project would worsen flooding in Metro Manila.

According to another site, Revive Manila, articles appearing in Manila Bulletin and Rappler attributed a number of statements to Mr. Tan.  In these statements, he was reported to have said:

(1) “reclamation is a risky technology because of rising sea levels and incessant rainfall. The Philippines has one of the highest sea level rises in the world and reclamation would only aggravate it.”

(2) He cites WWF studies which show that a poorly planned reclamation can create a giant bowl between Manila and the seashore.

(3) The natural slope of the bay helps drain rain water but after a reclamation, the slope is replaced by higher ground and the rain water is unable to flow elsewhere thus creating a flood area.”

The site’s author takes apart the claims made by Mr. Tan about the Manila Bay Reclamation project, point by point and appears to expose the flaws in Mr. Tan’s claims.

The first sentence of Tan’s statement smacks of the usual fear mongering ploy favored by environmentalists.  Where, before, the usual environmental bogeyman was the ozone hole, these days one hears environmentalists talking about “sea level rise” and “unusually heavy rainfall” as signs that the “end is near”.

Certainly Tan’s claims draw on the fear created by the recent flood brought about by Habagat (as well as Ondoy) all over Metro Manila and the storm surges that inundated Roxas Boulevard.  It is this fear that Tan exploits to goad people into just accepting his pseudo-science as fact.

In order not to fall into this trap, we have to examine Tan’s claim which is that “rising sea levels” and “incessant rain” automatically makes “reclamation a risky technology”.

This is premised on a number of assumptions:

1. Sea level rise is an imminent threat.  Sea-level rise is not an imminent threat, despite historical scientific data suggesting that sea-level rise may have accelerated over the past hundred years.  Sea level rise is a phenomenon measured in millimeters per year.

One useful site that one will encounter on sea level rise in the Philippines is Eco Jesuit and granting that its data as well analysis is correct, sea-level rise for the entire Philippines over a 40 year period will be 20 centimeters.

2. Present and emerging reclamation engineering technology CANNOT mitigate or overcome the threat of sea level rise.  Barring any other factors that may render Eco Jesuit’s projection inaccurate by a huge number, engineering experts planning a reclamation area can factor in this data with the intent of mitigating or even completely avoiding the peril of sea-level rise.

In the second sentence of Tan’s statement where he claims “poorly planned reclamation can cause a bowl between Manila and the sea”, it appears that he is citing a study which was not presented for scrutiny of either the author of the article or the public.  This is a patently deceptive attempt to imbue a statement with “scientific credibility” without the benefit of allowing others to scrutinize the study itself.

To examine the validity of Tan’s statement, one has to figure out how a “bowl” is created with reclamation.  If Tan really thought his statement through, he would have realized that the “bowl” he says will be created is MORE APPROPRIATE for land reclaimed from a lake or similarly depressed topography — such as was described in an article in the website of the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.  Saying the same thing of topography with slopes that openly empties directly into the sea will NOT create a BOWL.

It also appears that Tan puts forward an assessment of the Manila Solar City as if he had seen a final plan for the development.  The Revive Manila site claims that “there is no final plan yet.” And if so, what is Mr. Tan referring to?  It appears Tan’s claim of a poor plan is WITHOUT BASIS.

Moreover, the cites that in order to create a “bowl effect” the path of storm water and floods would have to drain into a depression.  The site also presents a map from NOAH DOST showing the flooding pattern and flow of storm water in Metro Manila:

NOAH DOST Flood Map of Ondoy

The map clearly shows that the proposed reclamation site is NOT in the path of the flood water flow and DOES NOT block the path towards Manila Bay.

If at all, Mr. Tan may be talking of a different reclamation project all together and certainly NOT Manila Solar City.

The Revive Manila site itself explains:

As such reclamation works are usually constructed higher than the existing elevation, the natural grade line are altered which will indeed affect the flow and drainage patterns during rainfall events.  However, as can be seen in the map above, the proposed site of the Manila Solar City is not in the path of a flood channel or in an area prone to high floods.

Nevertheless, the Manila Solar City is not a solid mass of land but rather a series of three islands.  The gaps between the land forms were specifically intended to allow for flood waters to drain into the bay.

mgdc sunset trajectory july2

This is something you can see for yourself.

The thing with Tan and other movers of the Save Manila Bay movement is that their claims actually lack scientific basis and generally use fear tactics in place of actual facts.

In fact, when confronted with data from NOAH DOST as well as www.suncalc.net, Save Manila Bay’s other ploy is to claim that poke holes in their claims — deliberately using an emotional ploy to sidestep an issue.

However, while Tan and the others CANNOT PROVE that people have been paid to challenge their claims, EVIDENCE that MR. TAN is protecting his VESTED INTEREST can be seen every time you use a Banco De ORO ATM Machine.  At the end of your transaction, the ATM will display a solicitation for the WWF and we all know that BDO is owned by the same family that owns SM — WHICH OWNS the SM Mall of Asia which ALSO SITS on reclaimed land in MANILA BAY.  And because Manila Solar City will compete with SM MOA, could it be that Tan is acting on the BEHEST of his SM sponsors to keep competition literally AT BAY?

bdo partners with wwf

The thing is, most of the issues Tan has leveled against the Manila Goldcoast Reclamation project is also true if not MORE TRUE of SM Mall of Asia.  Why isn’t he going against SM Mall of Asia?  Ka-ching! Ka-ching!