MANILA – The proposed reclamation project at the Manila Bay is not the solution to storm surges similar to what super typhoon "Yolanda" brought to Eastern Visayas, a critic of the venture said on Thursday.
Former Manila Mayor and Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, who now represents Buhay party-list in the Lower House, said the economic gains being touted by the "Solar City project would be dwarfed by the inconveniences that it may cause to the people of Manila.
Atienza said the 148-hectare development, spearheaded by real estate developer Manila Goldcoast Development Corp., will only worsen flooding in Manila.
He said it will displace bay waters and push them to nearby areas such as Malate, Ermita, and Intramuros even in the absence of a storm surge.
"Unang-unang tatamaan ay sila, pero papasok pa rin ang along malalakas sa Manila. It will not help. It will aggravate the problem," Atienza told ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda.
Atienza said the only solution to the threat of storm surges triggered by intensifying weather disturbances is a taller breakwater.
Edmundo Lim, vice chairman of Manila Goldcoast, said studies commissioned by the firm have shown that the reclamation project is environmentally friendly, and that the threat of storm surges is greatly reduced by various engineering interventions.
Lim said at least 4.5 meters of sea wall and wave reflector will protect areas around the Roxas Boulevard area, which was once inundated by big waves spawned by typhoon Pedring (Nesat) in 2011.
The reclamation project, whose consortium agreement was signed during the term Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim in 2012, has yet to obtain an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB), according to Lim.
Manila Goldcoast needs the ECC before it can apply for a signal to proceed from the Philippine Reclamation Authority.
A public consultation was recently held in Manila as the government reviews the environmental impact statement submitted by the firm.
In the public forum, the devastation brought by Yolanda to coastal areas was inevitably mentioned, and concerns were raised whether the reclamation project can withstand a similar devastation.
Lim said the reclamation project, if fulfilled, can bring at least P10 billion in revenues to the city every year and generate thousands of jobs.
He said the anchor project of the development is the cruise ship terminal similar to the one in Singapore, which brings in about 1 million tourists every year from its cruise industry.
The complex would also house commercial and residential developments.
Atienza, however, said that in past reclamation projects similar to the proposed Solar City, the profits only go to a few while the environment and the people suffer.
He added that aside from multi-sectoral opposition, the development also faces legal hurdles.
He said the Supreme Court has a continuing order not to alter the bay.
"There is a continuing mandamus to improve the conditions of the bay and not to reclaim it," he said.
"This area has been declared a historical and cultural site by the president at one point in time. This area has also been declared a protected area, covered by the NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Areas System) Law."