[OPINION] 7 reasons why we should oppose Manila Bay reclamation projects
I have been in the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) several times to do coastal cleanups as part of the environmental efforts of the university I am affiliated with.
LPPCHEA is considered as a wetland of international importance under the Convention on Wetlands. It functions as a natural barrier against storm surges, protecting many barangays in Las Piñas and Parañaque from severe flooding. But now, it is threatened by reclamation as it is part of the 26,230 hectares of Manila Bay approved for reclamation under President Rodrigo Duterte's Build, Build, Build program. (LOOK: Which part of Manila Bay is swimmable?)
Recently, the results of the Manila Bay cleanup and photos of its "transformation" led to strong support for complete rehabilitation. But there are fears that such rehabilitation would actually lead to reclamation, and the government is not denying this, even saying that it would benefit the entire country. (READ: Makabayan lawmakers want Manila Bay rehab postponed)
However, I argue that reclamation will only benefit a privileged few. Here are 7 reasons why reclamation of Manila Bay is bad for all of us:
1. Wider gap between the rich and the poor. Should reclamation projects be done, who would have access to the services and ownership of industries? Just like Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, majority of Filipinos cannot afford them while only foreigners and the privileged few can. Definitely, this would just be another case of how the rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer.
2. Unequal access to jobs and the evils of contractualization. Who will benefit from the jobs as a result of reclamation projects? With the way things are going now with the government's Build, Build, Build program, construction work has become the domain of the Chinese who enjoy high pay, while the rest of our skilled construction workers only get the minimum wage. After the project is done, white-collar workers would have access to jobs, get a regular position, and enjoy decent pay. How about the majority of blue-collar workers who still suffer from the horrors of contractualization which is an issue that we haven't addressed yet?
3. Urban-centric development. What happened to the promise to decongest Metro Manila and bring "development" to the countryside? Reclamation would only bring in more people, more cars, and eventually more wastes to Metro Manila. We're already finding it hard to solve such problems, and now we're looking for more?
4. Misallocation, misuse, and corruption. They say revenues to be generated from reclamation projects would be used for social services. Oh come on, this has always been an excuse to make people bite the bait. Looking at how the government allocates national and local budgets, we see that majority of the funds do not go to basic social services. Where do they go? They go to the pockets of our elected and appointed officials. Meanwhile, a huge chunk of the budget goes to controversial intelligence funds which cannot even trace high-profile drug lords or prevent terrorists from entering the country.
5. Destruction of the environment. What will happen to the wetlands, endemic and migratory birds, and the rich marine biodiversity of the bay? How many mountains will be destroyed so their rocks and soil can be used for reclamation? They say reclamation projects would have to undergo strict environmental compliance before they are given a permit to operate. Are we sure we can trust this given that destructive mining companies still operate in many parts of our country?
6. Exclusive and anti-poor development. What will happen to thousands of poor settlers along Manila Bay? Will they just be sent to a place where they are out of sight and mind? Based on my experience whenever I visit relocation sites, and as confirmed by studies, many of the areas are disaster-prone. Many are bereft of access to jobs and social services, and because of these, majority of the relocated go back to Metro Manila to again live in informal settlements.
7. Vulnerability to disasters. Studies have shown that reclamation projects lead to flooding, and in the event of an earthquake, the danger of liquefaction. Here in Metro Manila, we face the frequent menace of flooding. We are also waiting for the Big One, which we pray will never occur. We would be digging our own graves if we let reclamation push through – it would be the pinnacle of our craziness!
Given these reasons, I firmly stand against reclamation and I encourage everyone to oppose it. Instead, let us all support the rehabilitation of Manila Bay and the whole of Metro Manila.
Let us use government funds and donations from the private sector for better projects that will benefit everyone and not only the privileged few. I tell you, the money has always been there. We should just stop putting into power morally corrupt and spiritually bankrupt politicians. – Rappler.com
Mark Anthony Abenir is an associate professor and director of the Simbahayan Community Development Office of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. He is also a development worker and serves as chairman of the Community Development Society of the Philippines.