THE rush to reclaim land represents a failure to nurture vibrant communities in older and often historic parts of the Manila Bay area, heritage and conservation advocates said.
“As an urban planner, I think it is proof that if we push reclamation it shows that we are (giving up) on our ability to develop our communities,” Mark Richard D. Evidente, president of the Heritage Conservation Society, said at forum on Manila Bay-area communities.
The forum, known as “A Horizon of Heritage, was organized by Oceana Philippines in the city of Manila.
The Manila Bay area spans 199,400 hectares (ha) incorporating the provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan as well as Metro Manila’s Paranaque, Pasay, Manila, Malabon and Navotas districts.
The Philippine Reclamation Authority counts 23 dump-and-fill projects along the bay as of late June, in varying stages of completion, ranging from about 14 ha to 1,900 ha.
Oceana Philippines Vice President Gloria E. Ramos said: “The 1987 Constitution… is very clear. It’s the policy of the state to guarantee… (a) full and balanced ecology… in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature… it is the duty of everyone not to destroy the environment.”
Mr. Evidente said local government units should focus on developing existing communities, using their urban planning powers and the authority granted by the Local Government Code.
“The tendency is if you have reclamation, you will focus a lot of your administrative energy on developing these things, and you’ll forget about the people who actually need your help… the communities who have been there for a long time,” he said in interview.
He also cited the efforts of Manila Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso to redevelop older parts of the city, giving importance to heritage.
“I think they are missing a great opportunity to really revitalize the life of their cities if they focus in reclamation rather than redeveloping what they already have,” he added.
Mike Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), said animals are also affected by the loss of habitat caused by reclamation, in particular migratory birds.
“With reclamation, we are obliterating everything, not just the wildlife, not just livelihood. When we do reclamation, we destroy the sea… the reclamation materials (have) to come from somewhere. It will come from the mountains. We destroy the mountains,” he said.
Benjamin M. Vallejo, associate professor at the University of the Philippines Institute of Environment Science and Meteorology, said the benefits of reclamation can only be realized by investors, who evade the costs imposed on communities.
“Kailangan timbangin ng ating government authorities (the authorities should weigh) the risks and outcomes over the long term,” he said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang