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Storm surges prove sea reclamation no longer an option, says Villar

/ 12:01 AM June 09, 2014

BAGUIO CITY—Sea reclamation to expand urban areas may no longer be an option for growing cities, given the strength of storm surges that wiped out Tacloban City and parts of Samar in November last year, Sen. Cynthia Villar said here on Thursday.

Speaking at the national midyear conference of Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) at Baguio Country Club, Villar said she was leading a campaign against reclamation projects.

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In 2012, Villar and a group of petitioners from Las Piñas City were granted a writ of kalikasan by the Supreme Court over the Manila Bay reclamation project.

Villar said urban planners and policy makers had proposed to reclaim 380 hectares in Las Piñas and develop a new residential, industrial and commercial zone there without understanding the impact of storm surges on communities along Manila Bay.

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Like Tacloban City, areas along Manila Bay had suffered from storm surges in the past, she said.

She said the reclamation project would block the natural waterways and worsen flooding in her community.

She said the Philippine Reclamation Authority had listed reclamation projects covering 38,000 ha of coastlines in the provinces, and up to 26,000 ha of these projects involved areas along Manila Bay.

Like the Manila Bay project, some of the provincial reclamation projects would displace mangrove forests, Villar said.

“Mangroves are the best shields against storms,” she said.

According to Villar, the Manila Bay reclamation would have cut off community access to the mangroves of Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat.

Reclamation projects have been undertaken in Bohol and Cebu provinces and Boracay Island in Aklan province, she said, but the recent disasters due to climate change have proven that “urban renewal is a better option to reclamation.”

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In other countries, she said, reclamation “is a last resort.” Instead, other governments redevelop property that has been abandoned with the help of private developers.

Villar said she raised the matter before civil engineers whose expertise had become essential due to stronger storms hitting the country.

PICE has formed forensic engineering teams to study the impact of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” on structures to help design buildings that can withstand extreme weather.

Mariano Alquiza, PICE national secretary, said the institute’s engineers surveyed damaged buildings in Bohol, which was struck by  an earthquake last year, and Leyte and Samar provinces, which were ravaged by Yolanda.

“When I was younger, building engineering only approximated the impact of disasters like earthquakes, but these days, engineers need to analyze terrain, weather and environment to design stronger buildings,” he said. He said PICE wanted to rebuild better buildings to replace those damaged or destroyed by disasters.

Villar said: “The job of the civil engineer has become very important … because the Philippines has topped nations that are vulnerable to climate change disasters.” Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Disasters, News, Regions, Sen. Cynthia Villar, storm surges, Yolanda
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