Talk regarding the proposed 174-hectare reclamation project in Dumaguete City is only getting louder as more people learn about its possible consequences. The planned development of a "smart city"—which includes a coastal wastewater treatment facility/wave protection, esplanade, marina, and modern ferry port—has been met by strong opposition from various stakeholders.
Silliman University, so attached to Dumaguete’s cultural landscape, a leading institution in marine conservation in the Philippines, reaffirmed its opposition on the proposed reclamation project Tuesday.
A statement issued by its Board of Trustees stressed on the possible detrimental effects of a reclamation project to the marine ecosystems not only of Dumaguete City but also its adjoining areas.
The Silliman scientists noted that changing shoreline features could lead to beach erosion and make adjacent areas shallower. Such was the case with Silliman Beach and Agan-an, Sibulan after the runway of Sibulan Airport was extended towards the sea through reclamation.
The Board also pointed out the four functional marine protected areas (MPAs) that were established several years ago with the technical assistance of Silliman, in the barangays of Bantayan, Lo-oc, Mangnao and Banilad.
"These MPAs are part of a system of protected coral reefs, seagrass beds and soft-sediment ecosystems in Negros Oriental that is meant to boost fisheries productivity, conserve marine biodiversity and support tourism," the statement mentioned. "They are thriving with various species of marine life and are now in danger of being destroyed."
According to the statement, there is also the issue of possible "liquefaction" or the reduction of strength and stiffness of soil caused by an earthquake. "Scientific studies have shown that reclaimed land is prone to the phenomenon of liquefaction in the event of earthquakes," the Board noted. Active fault lines exist near Dumaguete, particularly the Sibulan fault, making the city prone to the liquefaction, which could endanger people's lives.
In a forum organized by the Diocese of Dumaguete last March, US-based environmental geologist and Outstanding Sillimanian Awardee Moses Alcala said "it is important for the government to always consider science when implementing construction and development projects."
He said if reclamation extends southward toward the mouth of Banica River, there is a possibility that the natural movement of the sands can be blocked by the extended reclaimed area. "Such blockage at the river may cause more sedimentation along the bottom of the river and flooding, which would affect the residential areas along the river banks,” said Alcala.
In its statement, Silliman reiterated its commitment to “the prevention of environmental pollution, the conservation and enhancement of our natural resources, and sustainability,” thus standing by their position opposing any present or future reclamation projects along the coastline of Dumaguete.