Another Aquino Legacy: The Death of Manila Bay Reclamation By Religion and Pseudo-Environmentalism?

A Fitting Testament To Myopic, Parochial, and Political Economy Based National Planning

san miguel beer iba ang may pinagsamahanAccording to the grape vine, all plans to add to or expand the reclaimed area in Manila Bay seems to be ‘dead in the water’ — literally.

I didn’t believe the pronouncements of the demise of any and all Manila Bay reclamation projects seriously a few months ago, but now, it seems quite clear that this might be the case.  The corporations who first fielded proposals in 2011 and 2012 have begun quieting down, a complete turn around from their loud and upbeat attitude when the projects were brought up.

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Notwithstanding the bold pronouncements of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church of its virtual success at stopping reclamation on the strength of “legal, moral, and scientific” grounds.

Last year, Tagle, his predecessor Gaudencio Rosales and 20 other bishops expressed “deep reservations” over plans to reclaim portions of Manila Bay for 38 real estate projects, saying that similar reclamation projects “had resulted in disastrous flooding, especially in Las Piñas, Parañaque, Malabon, Navotas and some cities and towns in Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Pampanga.”

For an organization that doesn’t pay income taxes for any of its properties or commercial activities, it seems it has the power to dictate on the country’s government officials.

Thing is, except for San Miguel Corporation’s proposed $10 Billion airport to be built on 1,600 hectares on newly reclaimed land in Manila Bay, there is almost no more news of the proposed reclamation projects of SM and Manila Goldcoast Development Corporation these days.

It didn’t help that, almost at first mention, the proposed projects of SM and Manila Goldcoast were shot down with the more or less same groups of people being at the lead with the addition of so-called Filipino social media ‘thought leaders’.

One group that figured consistently in opposing new and revived reclamation projects is Pamalakaya, a leftist backed subsistence fisherfolk organization which figured prominently during the days of the PEA-AMARI-FILINVEST scandal. Of the groups opposed to reclamation, I figure, it’s Pamalakaya that may actually have a stake in the talks because their members are actually informal settlers on reclaimed land and argue if you must for the scrapping of the Lina Law, they’re stakeholders in any development that may cause their eviction.

Then again, as usual, there’s the idea that these “subsistence fisherfolk” might be just pawns in a bigger game and they’re easy enough to deploy along with impressionable/gullible students to picket against reclamation projects that would:

1. Block the Historic Manila Bay Sunset. A claim easily debunked using SUNCALC, which is an online web-based map you can use to see where the sun sets at any given time of year in any location on earth.

2. Cause Massive Flooding. Another claim debunked merely by showing the proposed plans and locations of the proposed reclamation sites. Like San Miguel Corporation’s proposed $10 Billion Airport that would reclaim 1,600 hectares from Manila Bay, the Manila Goldcoast Development Corporation’s 148 hectare reclamation project would not block waterways that drain flood waters into Manila Bay because it would be (A) far away from such waterways and (B) would have wide channels separating it from the shore.

3. Create A Bowl Effect. Nevermind that according to most articles on the topic the so-called bowl effect actually happens in inland areas reclaimed from marshland that is actually below sea level and which the Manila Bay area is not.

4. Reclaimed Areas Are Vulnerable to Liquefaction. A claim which ignores the fact that NO LIQUEFACTION occurred in the old Manila Bay reclamation area and along the Roxas Boulevard (which most people don’t realize is RECLAIMED LAND) during the 7.8 magnitude 1990 earthquake that shook up a great part of Luzon. As renowned architect Jun Palafox said, as long as reclaimed areas are done right, liquefaction shouldn’t be a concern.  Considering the advances in land reclamation technology, the threat of liquefaction is something that is answered by ENGINEERING.

5. Worsen Storm Surges. This claim is actually the exact opposite of what’s going to happen if all of the planned 26,000 hectares Manila Bay reclamation is realized. If the reclaimed areas are built higher than the highest recorded waves in Manila Bay, it would actually help prevent those waves from bringing water inland by acting as a BARRIER or DIKE, possibly preventing Manila Bay’s waters from flooding stretches of Pasay Taft Avenue.

President-Aquino-and-SMC-head-Ramon-AngNow, here is the question that’s bugging me.

If these so-called scientific basis for opposing reclamation is true for SM and Manila Goldcoast, why isn’t it true for San Miguel Corporation’s proposed airport project?


Could all other reclamation projects have been stalled to give San Miguel Corporation certain advantages? The chief one being the only company to get its reclamation project off the ground.

Nevermind that it’s regulatory capture of the power sector was outed only recently in Ellen Tordesilla’s article on Zenaida Ducut.

14 Replies to “Another Aquino Legacy: The Death of Manila Bay Reclamation By Religion and Pseudo-Environmentalism?”

  1. I think in another article on this site, it was mentioned that some real estate developers were opposed to the project because it would increase land area and make property cheaper in Manila. Its really a shame. What Filipinos need are really these big projects that involve a lot of engineering and innovation before we can really say: “proud to be pinoy!”

  2. Please don’t mention reknowned and jun palafox in the same sentence, he’s made of the same cloth as the politicians that GRP lambasts. Worse, as he commands his claim to fame on slaves who invest 7 years of their lives devoting to their craft. But this isn’t the place.

    Second; reclamation has a long term effect on the land around. I don’t deny that the correct procedure will stop liquefaction, but to eat up a natural harbor little by little has dire consequences. If you need an example, look at Victoria Harbour of HK that urban planners all over the world are going red alert on (no thanks to HK’s continued ignorance of this fact— they have slowed down though). On our part, this will kill the North and South Piers, which will be a crippling blow for the Phils. Forcing the sea to retrench borders has a consequence far beyond our comprehension at this point; and while there is amibigous data on storms etc; it doesn’t do to make us a guinea pig. Netherlands learned this the hard way; and they have superior resources to us that’s why it looks fine for now.

    My point— there is no ‘great’ example or reclaimed land, only existing, workable ones that need constant surveillance and maintenance. This is anywhere in the world, for a number of reasons. Why people here continue to force the point when there are other options are beyond me.

    For example— the East lands to Rizal and Manila are bedrock hard; why can’t they expand there? they won’t trample over farmbowls of north and south; will not disrupt traffic crossing the same orientation, and decongest the tight unbearably stuffed commercial traffic of the West.

    There have been solutions like this available for DECADES. WTF are we doing?

    1. I for one think that the reclamation is a good idea. Manila bay is so big i can’t see how it can cause an eating up of Manila’s natural harbor. Manila is fairly secure against storm surges and tsunamis thanks to corregidor, whatever storm surges that do come out to batter the metropolis can be dissipated by the reclamation. Of course reclaimed land will require constant surveillance and maintenance–that goes for every structure built by man save the pyramids. Anyone who thinks that one can just reclaim from the sea and then just leave it as is is foolish.

      And Felino Palafox is a world renowned urban planner and architect and I admire the works designed by his firm. I’m sure that if you weren’t the government or henry sy/john gokongwei and you could afford it, you’d hire his firm to do the designs as well. Besides, you’re attack on him does not diminish the fact that what was attributed to him in this article (as long as reclaimed areas are done right, liquefaction shouldn’t be a concern. Considering the advances in land reclamation technology, the threat of liquefaction is something that is answered by ENGINEERING.) is valid no matter whose mouth it comes from. If Daniel Burnham or IM Pei or Imhotep or the ones who built the Holland dikes said it, you would have no problem with it.

      1. I forgot to add that yes, the project would kill the north and south piers but then again, they should be killed off and move our container traffic to Batangas and Subic. The Manila Port can just service foodstuffs and perishable commodities.

  3. I forget that the circles of architecture and construction are tiny isolated islands, and my intent was not to diminish but to state fact in my own industry. I suppose it is our own fault that we actually have ethics in place so that beyond a few pointed barbs here or there, we don’t like destroying anybody’s reputation, because as I said, our circles are small enough.

    But just a few rebuttals.

    Fact – that man will never have a sy or ayala project again— not after rounds of legalities involving corruption and breaking of contracts.

    Another one — the guy has not yet put forth an original idea from his house. All of these award winning structures/planning he lays claim to are designed by foreign architects that can’t be really put on paper due to archaic business legalities of our country. If I had my pick of whose original ideas I can give credit to, it would be Manosa, Calma, Antonio, Zaragoza… we have no shortage of thinkers here. The difference between them and Palafox is that they do not need to toot their own horn in a massive global marketing campaign to know their ideas WORK. If it gets technical, we are not even allowed to do market ourselves— its in our own code of ethics (an actual law— licenses here are issued by the government, not by professional leagues).

    And lastly – that firm is one of the most corrupt in the Philippines; with unpaid interns for a think tank. The level of attrition says it all.

    But this is neither here or there.

    The issue is the bay. I’m simply against further reclamation because despite its size; changing the course of a bay in the long run is disastrous, simply because human nature will not stop at a few hectares. It didn’t stop with roxas boulevard, didn’t stop with MOA, it’s not going to stop with the airport. And a decade or so after, it will hurt; planning wise. (Though the idea of moving the piers to Batangas and Subic is a good one, if quarantine laws were changed to delivering of perishables— there was actually talk of it during Gordon’s era in Clark/Subic). Also, the fact that Manila is insulated against storms is geographical, that side doesn’t face open sea, and is buffered by Palawan— the bay doesn’t even come into contention. Just that its a natural deep point and it would be a shame to curtail a naturally deep harbor perfect for sea traffic, for the sake of more land, not when there are other solutions to use barren land towards another part of the city. It’s not like we’re selling by the inch yet.

    Also, I agree with the engineering part. I never said it’s impossible to do, I just don’t think Manila has the resources to maintain such a reclamation, no matter WHO did it. (Imhotep was a nice dig, though, points for that— but wasn’t he a shaman or something? I thought the pharaohs were in charge of city development.)

    I’m sorry to debunk your theories and admiration of the guy; I just wanted to set the record straight and my first comment was born out of frustration. I see planning/architecture ego destroy valid ideas and processes on a near daily basis. Add to it that articles like these highlight the frustrating environment of seeing the oligarchs of development and government mix the rest of the city up without thought or consideration of how infrastructure influences a nation; not to mention inane religious opinion.

    I don’t know if you are a local or not, but I am a born and raised Manileña, and my heart bleeds at how cavalierly my capital is treated by the powers that be and its own people. Especially when it comes to addressing basic needs such as infrastructure. It’s not an excuse to be rude, it’s merely a matter of opinion disagreeing with yours.

    1. I just mentioned Palafox because he was the more vocal and more accessible authority/expert on the matter.

      As for your contention against reclamation on the bay, mainly that it won’t stop at a few hundred or thousand hectares and it will effectively choke it…

      That essentially saying that we shouldn’t venture on any idea because of imagined risks it poses.

      That’s exactly like saying let’s not build buildings higher than the highest fire truck ladder can reach. And the thing is, we have hundreds and hundreds of buildings higher than that… I don’t think it really bothers people to realize that there’s now way a catastrophic fire can be put out if a building’s fire control systems conk out. And the way it is, we’re pretty sure that the BFP people are just basically paid of to sign off on certifications of inspection.

      1. Risks I accept— what I detest is waste; resources, economy and all. And greed. Then using architecture to perpetuate it; and making profit off an already flawed system. It’s just like a mirror of our government that is slammed here, don’t you think?

        I consider reclamation for Manila as unnecessary destruction of habitat– there are other solutions viable. Not as sexy as raising land out of water or whatever excuse developers tell themselves, but just as financially viable; and even more so as one does not have to spend as much. I may not be palafox but it’s not stretch of mind to know that constructing on actual land is far cheaper than on silt.

        Let’s call this what it is— just unadulterated unconscionable greed. What a waste talaga.

    2. “Also, the fact that Manila is insulated against storms is geographical, that side doesn’t face open sea, and is buffered by Palawan” – buffered by Palawan? Maybe you mean Corregidor..

      1. Correct, thanks for correcting me?I was thinking of the next big island I suppose. In any case Manila is well buffered.

  4. They should build a good Flood Control System in Metro Manila; before any reclamation project. Those Squaters should be driven away.
    They cause pollution and block the drainages and esteros. One of the causes of the floding.

    Metro Manila is DELTA…it is below sea level. From this technical data…they can plan a good reclamatiuon project to accomodate the expansion of the International Airport.

    However, if politics and political padrinos will taint the project again…it will surely lead to graft and corruption…and Cost Overrun…Filipino Habit in implementing a project.

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