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Bishops' letter to President Aquino on Manila Bay Reclamation Project




November 19, 2013


PRESIDENT SIMEON BENIGNO C. AQUINO III
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace, Manila


Dear President Aquino:

Greetings of Peace! 

We, 21 bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Manila, respectfully bring up to you our concerns regarding the proposed Manila Bay Reclamation Project that will affect those under our care, specifically in the provinces and cities of our jurisdiction: the Archdiocese of Manila, and the Dioceses of Antipolo, Cubao, Imus, Kalookan, Malolos, Novaliches, Parañaque, Pasig, San Pablo, Apostolic Vicariates of Puerto Princesa and Taytay of Palawan and the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines. We believe that the project will have far-reaching consequences for the people and for the eco-system in these areas.



We studied the proposed project and consulted with specialists and the result of this study and consultation has led us to have deep reservations on the project’s social and environmental impact. We see it as part of our duty, in the light of the social teaching of the Church to speak out to responsible authorities regarding our concern. 

We are aware of 38 projects that involve reclaiming 26,234 hectares of Manila Bay. Our immediate concern, however, is the proposed reclamation of 300 hectares for Las Piñas/Parañaque; 300 hectares for Pasay; and most immediate, the 148 hectares for Manila, as the process of bidding for this has already begun. There are bigger lots being proposed for LPPCHEA, Navotas and Sangley.  Already, even without these projects, former reclamations in these areas have resulted in disastrous flooding especially in Las Piñas, Parañaque, Malabon, Navotas and  many towns and cities in Cavite,  Bulacan and Pampanga, that now have serious need for dredging of water bodies to enable water flow more freely.


The comments of the specialists we consulted are disturbing: 

Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo and Dr. Fernando Siringan explained that Manila Bay reclamation is a very bad idea because of three serious geological hazards that reclamation proponents are ignoring or dismissing: First, even without reclamation, continuing rapid and accelerating subsidence of the coastal lands bordering the bay is worsening both floods and high-tide invasions. Second is the combination of surges and storm waves driven against our coasts by passing typhoons, such as those that devastated Roxas Boulevard during Typhoon Pedring in 2011. But the greatest hazard is liquefaction during earthquakes that destroys buildings in coastal areas, whether underlain by natural deposits like those of the Pasig river delta, or artificial reclamations.

The recent 7.2 earthquake in the Visayas  should serve as a warning of what could happen if such an earthquake occurs in  the  area of Manila Bay.  Shall we allow more devastation and deaths to happen like what happened due to typhoon Yolanda?

We are also concerned about the legal aspect of the project. We have been advised that the following legal considerations may apply: First is the NIPAS Act or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act that provides that the Manila Bay Area is reserved for National Park purposes, therefore, making it a protected area that deserves conservation and protection. Presidential Proclamation No. 41 of President Ramon Magsaysay in 1954, declared this area to be a national park. This law reserved for national park purposes, the Manila Bay area (then known as the Manila Bay Beach Resort,) and withdrew the same from sale or settlement of humankind. 

The international community also recognized the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) by including it in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The Philippines joined the Ramsar Convention in 1994. Signatories of the Convention agree to "include wetland conservation considerations in their national land-use planning," and commit to implement and promote "the wise use of wetlands in their territory." According to the Manila Bay Declaration (2001), the Manila Bay is one of the sites of the Partnership of the Environmental Management of the Seas in East Asia (PEMSEA ). 

In the light of these considerations we have to exercise our responsibility as pastors and protectors of God’s flock and be in solidarity with all of humanity in the call to be stewards of God’s creation.  Therefore, we wish to present our stand of opposition to the Manila Bay Reclamation Projects. 

The scientific, legal and moral basis of our opposition for the reclamation of Manila Bay echoes God’s message. The Scriptures tell us in the Book of Genesis that after creating the heavens, the earth, the sea, and man and woman, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31).  Manila Bay is God’s creation and is God’s gift to the Filipino people.  Blessed John Paul II constantly reminded us of this during. In a message for World Day of Peace titled, “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation,” he warned us that “we cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI elaborated on this in his own 2010 World Day of Peace message, “If you want to cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.”  

At the heart of Catholic social teaching is the concept of the Common Good. This is what should guide us in our decision regarding the Reclamation project. So we ask, “who stands to benefit from this project?” 

There is no question that the Project will generate spectacular profits for the corporations pushing the projects and for Local Government Units, many of which have serious debt problems.  Should the decision to allow the project be determined only by financial considerations?  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his last World Day of Peace Message on  January 1, 2013, pointed out that “ the predominant (economic) model of recent decades called for seeking maximum profit and consumption... aimed at considering individuals solely in terms of their ability to meet the demands of competitiveness.” He said further that much tension and conflict are caused “by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism.” He thus called for “a new economic model” and “a new model of development...as well as a new approach to the economy”.

A vision based on this “new model of development” is already being pursued to restore Manila Bay to its former richness.  Our own Supreme Court decided, en banc, on December 18, 2008,   in favor of the people and ordered all concerned agencies of the government to undertake a Mandatory Clean up and Rehabilitation of Manila Bay. According to research, the bay’s toxicity level has not made it unfit for marine life such as hasa-hasa, bisugo, squid, crab, shrimp, oyster and mussels, that sustains  the livelihood of settlers along the coastlines of Cavite, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan. “There is hope of restoration of Manila Bay’s marine resources. Manila Bay, with all its pollution, still contains life and gives life,” Dr. Laura David of UP-MSI told the Manila Standard Today newspaper ( July 24, 2013).

Wouldn’t it be wiser, therefore, to boost tourism, cultural architectures, and to restore old historical sites and buildings, rather than build on reclaimed land to the detriment of the livelihood of people and the environment? The money for reclamation can better be spent for increasing and improving basic services to the people and for the protection of our ecosystems that can enhance ecotourism, employment opportunities and above all restore ecological balance?

Our basic position is based on the question: Will the projected economic gains sufficiently and justifiably compensate the damages in life, ecosystems and property in the future? And at the end, who will benefit from the foreseen questionable gains and the culture of gambling, prostitution, greed and materialism that could emerge? Is this the legacy we want to leave to  future generations? 

We appeal to you to be with us in responding to the call of Pope Francis? “Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of one another and of the environment”

Prayerfully looking forward to your very favorable decision with our people who are opposing the reclamation of Manila Bay and whose signatures are also attached here, we are:


MOST REV. LUIS ANTONIO G. CARDINAL TAGLE, DD
Archbishop of Manila


MOST REV. BERNARDO
C. CORTEZ, DD Auxiliary Bishop of Manila


MOST REV. BRODERICK S. PABILLO, DD
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila


MOST REV. HONESTO F. ONGTIOCO, D.D.
Bishop of Cubao


MOST REV. FRANCISCO DE LEON, DD      
Bishop Administrator of Kalookan


MOST REV. JESSE E. MERCADO, DD
Bishop of Parañaque



MOST REV. ANTONIO R.TOBIAS, DD

Bishop of  Novaliches


MOST REV. MYLO HUBERT C. VERGARA,DD
Bishop of Pasig


MOST REV. GABRIEL V. REYES, DD

Bishop of Antipolo


MOST. REV. REYNALDO EVANGELISTA,DD
Bishop of  Imus



MOST REV. JOSE OLIVEROS, DD

Bishop of Malolos


MOST REV. BUENAVENTURA M. FAMADICO, DD
Bishop of San Pablo  


MOST REV. DEOGRACIAS S. IÑIGUEZ, DD
Bishop Emeritus of Kalookan


MOST. REV. MANUEL SOBREVINAS, DD   
Bishop Emeritus of  Imus


MOST REV. TEODORO BACANI, JR
Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches


MOST REV. LEOPOLDO S. TUMULAK, DD
Military Ordinarite of the Philippines


MOST REV. PEDRO D. ARIGO,
DD
Vicar Apostolic of Puerto Princesa

MOST REV. EDGARDO S. JUANICH, DD
Vicar Apostolic of Taytay


MOST REV. LEO M. DRONA, DD

Bishop-Emeritus of San Pablo


MOST REV. FRANCISCO C. SAN DIEGO, DD
Bishop-Emeritus of Pasig


MOST REV. GAUDENCIO B. CARDINAL ROSALES, DD
Archbishop Emeritus of Manila



CC: 
Office of the President 
Philippine Reclamation Authority
Department of Public Works & Highways  
Department of Tourism 
Philippine Navy
Senate Committee on Tourism
House Representatives Committee on Environment
House Representatives Committee on Tourism
Senate Committee on Environment
Department of Environment and Natural Resources 
Philippine Tourism Authority
Department of Justice
Supreme Court of the Philippines
Department of Interior and Local Government
Metro Manila Development Authority