MAP makers and mariners say Manila Bay is the best natural harbor worldwide. It is like a big lake with a narrow entrance, exit guarded by Corregidor and El Fraille Islands. The most known Asian ports are Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama and Tokyo because of the gigantic volume of imports and ports passing through them. When it comes to shape contour and access to open sea, protection from typhoons and pirates, it is Manila Bay.
During the colonial period, America made a big deal of watching Manila sunset along Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard. It’s sad and painful ordeal began in the early 50’s when U.S tycoon Harry Stonehill (Steinberg) made the first reclamation project. Then came the construction of the big structures the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, Philippine Plaza Hotel, Manila Film Center etc. The 90’s saw the sudden increase of big buildings with the creation of the Mall of Asia, 18 hectares with high rise car parks, condominiums, business hotels; PNP, 10 hectares with complexes; and the GSIS Senate Complex. The 2000’s had giant casino-hotel complexes – City of Dreams, Solaire and Okada.
Today from Paranaque to Luneta, you inhale not sweet fresh salty windy air but gasoline, diesel fumes. You do not see racing, skimping, diving fishes but plastic bags, cans, bottles, cartons. You do not see darting and gliding birds but dirty, grimy, filthy, smoky engine exhausts and smog. You do not hear the crashing angry waves, the sighs of the low tide water splashing the sandy shore but the heavy roar of trucks, buses, screeching cars and the horrible honking of taxis and jeepneys.
Manila has a wet season from June to October, typhoon, habagat. Flooded Manila is accepted but the run offs then were not as bad as what is experienced now. Up to the 60’s , while the water torrents from higher Quezon City made Espana a big lake, and Taft Ave., Malate, Pasay, Buendia into knee deep rivers, the waters were gone in an hour to two. Since the 2000’s, under the same situation, the flood waters have stayed much, much longer.
Up to the 70’s, Manila’s flood water would cross Roxas Boulevard directly to Manila Bay. Today, reclaimed land blocked the flow of flood waters to the sea. Today the waters have to crawl from Roxas Blvd., for two kilometers to the sea because of CCP, malls, hotels, and condos. Compounding the problem is that all these buildings dump trash into their drainage lines which are linked to the public canals. The sheer volume of the indissoluble waste clogging the main and secondary canals means the flood waters in Espana, Taft, Pasay and nearby barangays can only be drained into Manila Bay millimeter by millimeter.
Climate and weather scientists insist that rising sea water is caused by the melting of millions of tons of ice in the Artic and Atarctic. These waters will drown Manila’s low lying areas. During the typhoon, habagat season, the waves, now higher and stronger, will pound the reclaimed areas seawalls. It might cause cracks and fissures. Sea water pushed by the winds and waves might seep inland, eat the foundations of the very big malls, hotels, casinos etc. Hopefully, these giant buildings will not crack and collapse.
Manila Bay also touches the shorelines of Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Zambales and Bataan. Today the planned reclamation areas are in: Paranaque, Pasay, Manila, about 4000 to 6,000 hectares, Cavite’s islands and Sangley runway extensions of 4,000 hectares. High tide means the sea enters Manila Bay curving, gliding along the shoreline from Cavite, Manila up to Bataan. Low tide means the sea withdraws again by gliding out the opposite way. More reclaimed land means the natural tidal flows (high, low) will be deeply affected and the flows will be blocked and diverted. If it changes direction and water rise continues, maybe the rice and farm lands of the 5 provinces will be hit by the salty water. It will poison and kill the farmlands and dislocate coastal villages.
The good news! This February 2020, President Duterte said he will not allow further Manila Bay reclamations except those that have been approved before his time. More good news! Next, part 2.
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