Much of the hullabaloo over the reclamation projects in Manila Bay is centered on one particular project that has drawn the attention of the US embassy and since then, the work in the others have been stopped while studies are being done on their impact to the environment. This has created an unlikely impasse that begs the question on the impact of a reclamation project.
Are reclamation projects per se good for us? And here the issue of the environment crops up. Taken, however, from an economic lens, the reclaiming of lands has huge economic benefits that far outweigh that of the environment, a fact that has not been lost on Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
In a budget hearing of the appropriations committee, he surmised that at a conservative estimate of P2,500 per square meter, the combined 6,000 hectares of land will translate to half of the country’s gross domestic product. And that is just the cost of the land, which is actually a fourth of its prevailing worth. Add the economic value of business development such as the building of a tourist-oriented establishment that will mean more jobs created, the taxes that will accrue to the LGUs, and the increased economic activity are enough reasons to nudge the government to green light the projects.
After all, it is imperative for the country to energize the economy given the gargantuan debts we have to pay down the road, no thanks to Covid. And if the environment issue is played on our reclamation projects, we can point to the fact that in the United States, there are 220 operating coal plants while we have only 22 plants that are now being asked to be stopped due to environmental considerations.
The economic impact of a reclamation project should provide the platform for the DENR to allow the continuation of the projects to ramp up economic activity. Much analysis, it is said, leads to paralysis and this should not be the case. The sooner that the impasse is resolved, the sooner can the country benefit from the tremendous economic boom that the projects will trigger.
Imagine LGUs like Paranaque being able to raise enough to fund the building of more schools, or hiring more STEM (science, technical, engineering and math) tutors to address the students’ learning disabilities brought by their concentration on gadgets, or even build condominiums for rent-to-own schemes for their constituents. The list of the economic impact of reclaimed land far outweighs the projected risks attached to them, such as the possible loss of the famed Manila Bay sunset.
Actually, with the reclaimed land along Manila Bay, the LGUs can band together to create a tourist destination that will rival other tourism sites. For instance, a boardwalk could be built with different kinds of restaurants offering native delicacies. Also, a bike lane can be designated in the area, and a place for walking enthusiasts and even a museum and a bird sanctuary. Aside from these, several lanes can be established that will allow local and foreign tourists to enjoy being in the said sites.
And as for the risks linked to reclamation projects, the Philippine Reclamation Authority had already settled the issue. PRA Assistant General Manager Joseph Literal said that the developers are enhancing coastal protection, a fact that is part of the reclamation projects in other parts of the world.
Cities with reclamation projects are now spending money to balance economy and ecology, and these include constructing breakwaters and seawalls that will reinforce coastal defenses. Ripraps are also put in place to ensure non-erosion. All these developments go with the ongoing reclamation projects and these are what the developers are doing.
For Dr. Edgardo Alabastro, Ph. D., Chief Executive of Technotrix Integrated Services Corp, one of the reclamation project developers, the impasse created by the continued suspension “could prejudice the attainment of benefits that would accrue with the full development of the reclamation project. On full development, socio-economic benefits will filter down to the public and communities, especially in the territorial jurisdiction of the reclamation project. Jobs and livelihood would be made available.”