“The natural flow of bay waters will have been altered by these many reclamation islands that the waters kissing the dolomite beach will likely be fetid and stagnant, trapped by the man-made monstrosities constructed for the wealthy”
There are several reclamation projects, big and small, that will soon dot Manila Bay with their man-made islands, assuming they are not stopped.
There is already one project that has been started, supposedly owned by a Davao construction magnate, visible from the air if you are aboard a helicopter.
Down at the Mall of Asia pedestrian esplanade, you can see barges scooping sand from around 20 meters offshore, apparently to fill up the reclamation project farther offshore. The project is within the municipal waters of both Pasay and Manila.
There is an even bigger reclamation project, this time by the wealthiest family in the land, that spans Parañaque and Pasay.
There is a small one which has been languishing for the last 20 years without being allowed to start mobilization, approved by the late Manila Mayor Fred Lim, that borders the Folk Arts Theater area beside the Philippine Naval reservation.
There are two conflicting reclamation projects, both fronting Roxas Boulevard in Manila, approved by Mayor-President Erap Estrada, whose metes and bounds overlap. And another also within Manila’s municipal waters, approved as well during Estrada’s time.
Then there is a reclamation project in tiny Navotas, a city whose income and population dwarf its land area, and seeks now to increase the same as there is no more room for expansion.
Once all of these are completed, visitors to that dolomite beach the “Mandamus Agencies” are so proud of will be devoid of the view of the Manila Bay sunset, and ordinary mortals who pass by our famed Roxas Boulevard will just see condominiums from a distance hiding the sunset from us.
Worse, the natural flow of bay waters will have been altered by these many reclamation islands that the waters kissing the dolomite beach will likely be fetid and stagnant, trapped by the man-made monstrosities constructed for the wealthy.
But why are there so many reclamation projects, not only in Manila Bay, but likewise in Cebu, in Coron, and God knows where else?
It is because with the high prices of real estate in the country, it is cheaper to construct islands offshore than to purchase inland. Why the prices of Philippine real estate are way too high compared to say Thailand or Indonesia and Vietnam is likewise a puzzlement.
So, when Harry Stonehill, the American carpetbagger who controlled US Tobacco once upon a time started reclaiming what is now the CCP-PICC area beside the Philippine Navy HQ, people wondered whatever for.
A subsequent corruption scandal that had almost everybody in politics listed in the American’s uncovered “blue book” sent him scurrying out of the country. And the reclamation project became government property, upon which Imelda Marcos built her monuments.
In Cebu City, which is a narrow strip of land hemmed in by mountains to its west, the late Mayor, then Senator Sergio Osmena Jr. hired a Hawaiian corporation to reclaim what is now the useful Port of Cebu extension covering parts of the city as well as Mandaue.
As our population mushroomed with unabated baby production, the urban centers of Manila and environs became overcrowded, especially since we never did in-city urban planning, not until Mayor Isko Moreno came to the scene with his Tondominiums and Binondominiums, affordable and decent housing for the poor and common folks.
Elsewhere, when the Ayala gated villages with their stately mansions were all filled up, builders started building pricey high-rise condominiums along Ayala Avenue, in Buendia and Rockwell, later the BGC and Ortigas.
Prices of real estate have gone haywire, with BGC lots, if you can find any for sale, going for a million per square meter. Thus, the reclamation option, and with our condominiums available for foreign purchase, bingo for the developers.
Government functionaries and politicians keep talking about dispersing growth towards the provinces, but little has been done about the same.
Everybody crowds NCR, Metro Cebu, Iloilo, and other urban centers where work opportunities are better than the languishing countryside.
But will the reclamation projects off Manila Bay solve the problem of over-crowding?
Not by any chance. These projects are not for you and I. And as the American fictionist Francis Scott Fitzgerald once quipped, “the rich, my dear, are different from you and I.”
They will be for the can-afford wealthy, the uber-billionaires and the foreigners, mostly Chinese, who want another high-value asset in our country.
And the proponents of these mega-projects have also lined up partnerships with uber-wealthy Chinese, and Chinese contractors who more likely than not, will hire workers from the mainland.
Since they cannot hire en masse from China, they will get helpers from the provinces, who will never leave the metropolis, having found work here.
Instead they will migrate to the capital region, along with their extended families. You think they will live in those reclaimed islands after the ritzy condominiums are completed?
They will crowd their way into every fetid slum in the capital region where they can put shack and a makeshift roof. Such is how economics works.
We never plan long-term in this country. We cannot see anything beyond the tip of our noses.
But since many of these projects are not likely to proceed quickly enough due to the world-wide recession, maybe the new president can still put a stop to these absurdities.
Enough is enough.