Estrada approves building 3 islands at Manila Bay for new commercial district

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada gave the go signal for a reclamation project that would see the construction of a P100-billion, 419-hectare commercial district, just off the coast of Manila Bay.

This commercial district, named Horizon Manila, will stand on 3 140-hectare islands set to emerge off the city's port area. (READ: Cheat sheet: Manila Bay reclamation)

"With another milestone project such as this one, we are getting close to achieving our dream of regaining the City of Manila's old title, the Pearl of the Orient," Estrada said in a statement.

The project was initially inked through a joint venture agreement (JVA) with J. Bros Construction Corporation on April 24 and sealed through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on June 1.

Of the 419-hectare business and residential district, 181 hectares will be allotted to the Manila city government, with the remaining 238 hectares to the developer.

According to the JVA, 43.2% of revenues from the project will go to the Manila city government and 56.8% to J. Bros.

With P200,000 as the average market value per square meter, the project is estimated to bring P362 billion in revenues for the Manila city government, and P476 billion for J. Bros.

Estrada promised that Manila's revenues would be used to boost the city's social programs.

He also said the new commercial district would create "hundreds of thousands of jobs for Filipinos."

More reclamation projects

According to the statement, 3 other reclamation projects are being pursued in Manila.

These are the New Manila Bay International Community (407.42 hectares), the controversial Solar City urban center (148 hectares), and the P7.4-billion expansion of the Manila Harbour Center in Tondo.

Projects such as these have been criticized by environmentalists and the Church, who say these are not sustainable and would put communities at risk of flooding. (INFOGRAPHIC: Why Manila Bay matters)

In a separate project with China's Shanghai Nanjiang Group, Estrada is also eyeing relocation to reclaimed lands for thousands of families living in the slums. (READ: Manila to relocate 7,000 families in esteros)

The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) said that with the signing of the MOU, J. Bros will now have to submit requirements such as feasibility, engineering, and geohazard studies as well as an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) within 6 months to a year.

J. Bros general manager Jesusito Legaspi said they expect to start dredging works and construction in late 2017 or early 2018 in order to reach their 2022 deadline, or before President Rodrigo Duterte's term ends.

Legaspi said they will speed up the studies and other requirements to produce the "legacy islands" as part of Duterte's ambitious infrastructure plan– Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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