SPECIAL REPORT: Reclamation activities on Manila Bay to increase number of destructive storm surges—group

Posted By: Chris On:

MANILA, September 30, 2011—The abuse of the sea and the environment, as a whole, is the primary reason for huge, destructive storm surges.

This was the analysis of the fisherfolk group, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) of the recent storm surge in the Manila Bay, connected with the 600-km radius Pedring (international code: Nesat). The 12 to 16 (or more) high sea waves had mocked down trees and other structures along the bay walk, causing massive flooding.

Not created by mere typhoon winds

Pamalakaya vice chair Salvador France, in a statement said, they do not believe that the surge was caused by strong winds, brought by Pedring, alone; it was the continuous reclamation of lands and parts of the Manila bay had made the waves in “monstrous proportions.”

““We will not buy the idea that the storm surge that happened in Manila Bay was chiefly caused by Pedring’s strong wind. That is just an external factor which clinched that storm surge in the afternoon of September 27. The long-running crime of reclamation in Manila Bay is the principal reason why the storm surge happened not only in Roxas Boulevard but almost in the entire stretch of the bay from Cavite to Bataan province,” says France.

This analysis, he says, is brought by the fishermen’s “experiential science” or by the practical knowledge that they have garnered through years of fishing and dealing with the open seas.

“The fisherfolk science based on experience says the unstoppable reclamation activities in Manila Bay altered the flow and movement of waters in Manila Bay. There was no storm surge before in the lake until this across-the-bay reclamation activities swept the bay by storm. It practically changes the movement and flow of waters inside an enclosed body of water since the 70s,” he said.

One of the proofs of such massive reclamation of lands which, for thousands of years, belonged to the bay is the construction of Henry Sy’s SM Mall of Asia. The said mall, one of the biggest in Asia, had reclaimed 42 hectares of the bay’s total area. It boasts to have a floor area of more than 390,100 square meters (approx. 4.2 million square feet) and has been the home for bazaars, recreational facilities and trade and exhibition halls.

Other structures which “ate” the 20,000 hectares of the Manila Bay are the GSIS building in Pasay City; the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Bulwagang Francisco Balagtas (formerly Folk Arts Theater); the Sofitel Manila; and other commercial companies in Manila and the nearby cities.

More reclamation to come, including reclaiming a bird sanctuary

The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), Pamalakaya shares with CBCPNews, is planning to reclaim some 5,000 hectares more of the bay as part of the expansion of Sangley port in Cavite City.

The project, according to Gerry Albert Corpuz, Pamalakaya information officer, is part of the -1 Expressway Extension Project.

Corpuz also said that the PRA is “hell bent” to reclaim the 175-hectare mangrove forest along the Manila bay, which serves as shelter for several species of waterfowl and birds. Corpuz is referring to the Las Piñas-Parañaque coastal lagoon.

The reclamation project in Las Pinas-Paranaque coastal lagoon will also entail the reclamation of additional 635 hectares of coastal waters adjacent to Las Pinas-Paranaque coastal lagoon.

He said during the year 1992-1995, some 3,500 small fisherfolk and their families in Pasay Reclamation Area and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Fidel Ramos to give way to reclamation projects which is now home of the commercial buildings.

Nonetheless, in the year 2006, the national government through the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and its contractor partner UEM-Mara Philippine Corp. reclaimed an additional 7,500 hectares of coastal waters off Manila Bay for the now built R-1 Expressway Extension Project, which was annexed to the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road Project.

“On June 21, 2007, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 629 directing the PRA to develop Sangley Point in Cavite City into a logistical hub with modern seaport and an airport, citing the R-1 expressway extension project as enabling component,” Corpuz said.

Pamalakaya also disclosed that in Navotas City, there are also some reclamation activities going on. Corpuz said that the national government is hell bent in pushing the North Bay Boulevard Project (NBBP) in Navotas City that will entail the reclamation of not less than 5,000 hectares of foreshore lands to the detriment of more than 20,000 fishing and urban poor families who will be immediately displaced once this national project proceeds.

The group, meanwhile, forewarns the government to expect more storm surges—much higher, much wider, and much destructive than the earlier—if they continue to sell the portions of the bay for reclamation.

Storm surges 101

On the other hand—what are storm surges anyway?

The US Government’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) defines a storm surge as “an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides.” However, the NHC says that it should not be mistaken for a storm tide.

“Storm surge should not be confused with storm tide, which is defined as the water level rise due to the combination of storm surge and the astronomical tide. This rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas particularly when storm surge coincides with normal high tide, resulting in storm tides reaching up to 20 feet or more in some cases,” NHC explains in its website (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/).

The local Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) stated that the storm surge that happened in the Manila Bay last September 27th is a result of Pedring’s strong winds and not simply by rainwater.

Storm surges, produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds moving cyclonically around the storm, are described by the NCH as a “complex phenomenon.”

“Storm surge is a very complex phenomenon because it is sensitive to the slightest changes in storm intensity, forward speed, size (radius of maximum winds-RMW), angle of approach to the coast, central pressure (minimal contribution in comparison to the wind), and the shape and characteristics of coastal features such as bays and estuaries,” the NHC said in its website.

NHC also explained that storm surges are totally destructive.

“Water weighs approximately 1,700 pounds per cubic yard; extended pounding by frequent waves can demolish any structure not specifically designed to withstand such forces,” the NHC said. (Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews)


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