2 September 2018

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment slammed the claims of the San Miguel Corporation that its Bulacan Aerotropolis reclamation project would create 1 million jobs and resolve the perennial flood problems of communities in Bulacan province as “duplicitous,” pointing out that major infrastructure construction on waterway bottlenecks going into Manila Bay theatens floods to an estimated 1 million people.

“The creation of a million jobs in exchange for a million people potentially affected by worsened floodings from the Bulacan Aerotropolis is a no deal. This reclamation’s threat of clearing of mangroves, infrastructure construction, and land subsidence provide for a complex flooding problem that would surely aggravate the already flood-prone situation of Bulacan’s coastal towns,” said Leon Dulce, National Coordinator of Kalikasan.

The 2,500-hectare Aerotropolis is an airport and urban complex that includes a plan to integrate the project to the expressways. This expressway development fits into the design of the 18,000-hectare Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway (MBIFCCDE) Project, a proposed project that seeks to cover the entire Northern Manila Bay coastline with an expressway-dike reclamation.

Worsening floods

Bulacan’s flood-prone cities and towns as indicated in the Mines and Geosciences Bureau flood suspectibility maps include Paombong, Hagonoy, Malolos, Bulakan, Bocaue, Marilao, Meycauayan, Balagtas, Guiguinto, and Obando, which have a total population of around 1.24 million residents.

““The Aerotropolis and Expressway dike reclamation projects would block floodwater draining from the various river systems of Bulacan and Pampanga into Manila Bay. A hydrological study on proposed reclamation projects in the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area demonstrated how the said land use can be aggravated by as much as 5.12 meters,” said Dulce.

Mangrove forests along the coasts of Bulacan, which have long served as natural flood defenses, are also expected to be cleared to give way for these reclamation projects. San Miguel personnel have in fact already illegally cleared 657 mangrove trees in Barangay Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan despite not yet having proper environmental clearances.

Complex problems

The environmental group also disputed the claim that San Miguel’s promise to construct a USD1-billion spillway for excess water from Bulacan’s upstream river sources to drain directly to the Manila Bay will resolve the flooding problem of the province.

“The waterways coursing from Bulacan’s ridges down to its reefs are complex systems that cannot be simply resolved by just a spillway. If we take the recent torrential monsoon rains as a concrete example, flood comes not only from the headwaters in Sierra Madre but also from extreme rainfall directly falling on Bulacan’s river basin and from coastal floods,” Dulce explained.

The group also noted how the continuing land subsidence aggravated by groundwater extraction further worsens flood vulnerabilities of Bulacan. The urban sprawl brought about by the expected influx of over a million workers and 100-200 million air passengers constantly in transit in the area would intensify land subsidence and increase the exposure of populations to flood hazards.

“Engineering solutions and simplistic development promises are always impressive until you start looking into the devil in the details. The alarming railroading of the Aerotropolis should be stopped. There are alternative means of developing Manila Bay without sacrificing the people and the environment,” ended Dulce.#