• Structures on

    Ma. Isabel Ongpin

    Ma. Isabel Ongpin

    Who does the Local Government of Pasay City think they are, imperial? They have cathedratically announced that they are in serious talks with a developer to reclaim hundreds of hectares of sea with no public hearings, no environmental impact studies, no thought of how they are tampering with the environment. both natural and man-made.
    What gives? That they seem to have a favored developer (another developer requested to be let in to this picture and was swiftly denied) seems like a done deal between them.

    Perhaps some official in the Pasay City hierarchy should consult geologists and institutions that have studied coastal environments like Pasay City and at least get some information about how coastal areas in the present dispensation of climate change are faring even without the intrusive and upending work that reclamation will entail.

    Scientists like Kelvin Rodolfo, professor emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences) state that as we speak “rapid and accelerating subsidence of the coastal lands bordering the bay is worsening both floods and high-tide invasions.”

    That is reason enough not to challenge Nature’s forces. Global warming is raising sea levels by 3 millimeters per year, reason why flooding in Manila is getting worse. But when you factor in the over-pumping of groundwater, the land is subsiding even more (according to Rodolfo 30 times faster). Under these circumstances reclamation which entails drastic withdrawal of groundwater and the weight of the structures built on the reclaimed area (or why else would one reclaim if not to build and profit?) will inevitably speed up the sinking of the land.

    Would it be logical (sane, even) to build on such sinking circumstances? Land subsidence must be taken seriously. Metro Manila’s coastal areas are said to be sinking as fast as 9 centimeters yearly. Subsidence is all over Metro Manila with the aquifers being pumped out, and global warming in the mix. It is not a good turn of events and can be very dangerous in times of natural calamities or extreme weather. That is even without reclamation.

    Other threats
    The other threat to reclaimed areas is the combination of surges and storm waves, usually from typhoons. As typhoons become more powerful and more frequent, storm surges will increase in strength and frequency. Note what happened to the Roxas Boulevard sea wall in 2011 when storm surges during a typhoon brought huge waves on top of them, waves that went over the height of coconut trees in the area.

    Storm surges are one of Nature’s most destructive forces. They can destroy the strongest of buildings, reduce the strongest of materials to rubble. Manila Bay wave data is still incomplete though waves from 3 to 5 meters can occur even with winds of only 55 kilometers per hour. If they are higher, waves generated can easily lift large ocean freighters and park them on Roxas Boulevard, according to Rodolfo.

    Then there is what Rodolfo terms “seismically-induced liquefaction”, a phenomenon that occurs in deltas (like Manila) or artificial reclamations. When an earthquake hits these areas the shaking separates the solids under and water comes in to make a “slurry” which is a liquid without strength. Result – buildings on it would sink disastrously or even topple.

    Manila is due for an intensity 7 earthquake. It would indeed be perilous to be in some structure in a reclaimed area that would already be in subsidence, exposed to storm surges and experience liquefaction, if an earthquake happened. Why are developers and their Local Government accomplices risking all of these perils?

    Tampering land use
    Furthermore, sudden and major changes of geography or land use for no reason other than to make one group have a leg up on others is an unfair tampering of the status quo of land use. Land and property assets (as in this case Roxas Boulevard) would lose major value if they were no longer by the bay but stranded at the end of a reclaimed area that now possesses (wrong word because the sea will be the ultimate possessor) the coastline. Some will be rich at the expense of others.

    Cities have character or should. They have to have features that distinguish them and mark their identity so much so that they influence their inhabitants, comfort them, define them.

    Pasay City in its pristine days was attractive for its bayside location, its greenery and salubrious breezes. All now under siege from overpopulation, no heed for zoning laws, garbage challenges as well as sin spots, rampaging informal settlers.

    Why doesn’t the Pasay City government put its house in order before venturing to spread to the reclaimed area which, by all physical laws, will be perilous to those who venture there? And, if Pasay City alters its geography for the pieces of silver, it will lose whatever positive characteristics still manage to exist (despite great aggravation) that define it as a singular place.

    Really, moneymaking in this case must take a backseat. Enough of real estate and local government imperialism. Present and future generations deserve better than what these two characters are concocting in the dark—the darkness of ignorance and the darkness of greed.



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    1. Ms. O. ur liberal quote of Mr. KR view is most welcome as it will put those pro reclamation profiteers on alert. But nature’s wrath can be tamed thru man’s engineering and architectural genius so we should proceed with those reclamations to create more jobs and other opportunities for our populace provided that no less than the Dubai reclamation technology be replicated here without exception.