DOT Sec Jimenez: Entertainment city ‘not been taken up with me’

Pia Ranada
Though the 'entertainment city' to be built on reclaimed land in Manila Bay is meant for tourism, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. opposes it

BAY IN DANGER. In place of these waters will rise an 'entertainment city' unless citizens take action. Photo by Pia Ranada

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. says he is “very worried” about the imminent reclamation of Manila Bay by developer Manila Gold Coast Corporation.

In an interview with Rappler during a book launch in Makati last January 30, the tourism secretary grieved that he had not even been consulted about the project that will reclaim 148 hectares of the famous bay to create an “entertainment city.”

This new hub, purportedly aimed at creating more recreational venues in Manila to bolster tourism and jobs, appears in plan sketches as an island in front of the bay, connected to Roxas Boulevard by a road.

Jimenez added that, “If [the sectors and individuals involved] allow me, I will try to convince them against this project.”

“The DOT believes Manila already has much to be proud of. This additional feature has not been taken up with me,” emphasized the secretary.

To claims that the “entertainment city” is an attempt at redeveloping and revitalizing Manila, Jimenez responds, “Manila is due for redevelopment but it does not mean that we alter it forever in this way. We sustain it as the broad, breezy boulevard that we Filipinos love.

“Anything that destroys that worries me very much.”

Heated debate

Last January 29, 2013, the Gold Coast Corporation posted their official statement on the reclamation on Facebook.

You can read the statement here.

In an email interview with Rappler, World Wildlife Fund-Philippines CEO Lory Tan addressed the various points made in the statement.

Responding to the portion that claimed the “entertainment city” will not block the famed Manila Bay sunset because it will be located behind the Philippine Navy and Manila Yacht Club and will occupy only 0.082% of the bay, Tan asks:

“Will there be no buildings? How tall will they be? Look at the sunset then stick out your hand. Does your hand block your original view or not? Someone has not thought this through.”

Gold Coast also claims that the reclamation will not cause any disruption to the bay’s marine ecology because studies show that there is no marine life in the project site.

Tan responds, “That is a statement made by someone who does not know the biophysical wealth that exists in Manila Bay. In that very area that they plan to reclaim, there are over 60 species of marine invertebrates. This is scientific data provided by Dr. Benjie Vallejo.

“We also know that the bay’s oceanography has already been altered by existing reclamations. This affects flushing and the ability of the bay to clean and replenish itself. If this is already happening, how can they allege that their project will have no effect? The movement of seawater also has an effect on the efficiency of drainage.”

AGAINST RECLAMATION. Concerned citizens held a press conference last January 5. Seated from L to R: Nora Juat, Father John Leydon, Doris Magsaysay-Ho, Emily Abrera, Paulo Alcazaren. Standing from L to R: WWF-PH's Lory Tan, Ivan Henares, Atty. Galahad Pe Benito

The flood issue

Gold Coast also said the reclamation will reduce flooding “like other reclamation models all over the globe.”

But Tan does not buy this. He says:

“This statement was made by someone who does not understand Manila’s topography, nor the basics of hydrology. The Manila bayshore sits practically at sea level and it is sinking due to excessive groundwater extraction. If the project is designed to enhance, and not marginalize, Manila’s existing exposure to flooding, common sense tells us that it has to sit lower than Manila. That means it will be more flood prone than Manila, portions of it may even be underwater.

“No one will invest in a project that, from the start, is ‘sunk.’ Pun intended. If it is higher than Manila, then common sense tells us once more that there is a risk of back-flow; not to mention the fact that this island will create a ‘plug’ standing in the way of Manila’s drainage.

“Two climate change impacts that could directly aggravate this are: sea-level rise and storm surge. That would really be messy.”

Sea-level rise is caused by the heating up of the Earth’s surface temperature and is an effect of climate change. The heat leads to the expansion of water and the melting of glaciers and ice caps that puts coastal towns at risk of flooding. In some cases, entire islands can be submerged.

A storm surge is sea-level rise caused by storms. This is common phenomenon in low pressure weather systems like tropical cyclones often seen in the Philippines.

Bad or good for business?

To the assurance that the “entertainment city” will generate new jobs for locals and provide new opportunities for businesses, Tan asks if these potential jobs and businesses can make up for the existing jobs and businesses that will suffer from the reclamation.

He gave Rappler a Google Earth map showing businesses, major government landmarks, and historical sites that may be put at risk if the reclamation gets the green light. It is likely these establishments will not survive increased flooding and may need to relocate.

ENDANGERED ESTABLISHMENTS. The yellow markers indicate the businesses and sites that may be affected by the reclamation. Image from Lory Tan

He asks, “Do they mean that they will create more employment than what already exists at these major institutions and businesses? I think not. In a nutshell, it is clear that much more study is needed. 

“The EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) or ECC (Environmental Compliance Certificate) process is far from adequate. Too much is at stake.”

The escalation of the issue has led many concerned citizens to take more action.

Heritage advocates, environmentalists, students, and Manileños will gather on February 12, 2013 for a synchronized sunset-viewing at the Manila Baywalk at 4pm.

They call on other concerned individuals to join them in appreciating the Manila Bay sunset and showing the developer and government how much it means to them. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.