Solar City reclamation project: Cruise my heartBy Conrado Banal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
As a rule, business takes a beating in media on any issue regarding the environment. Recently, media slaughtered the new reclamation project in the City of Manila called “Solar City.”
It seems that business is always equal to profit that, in turn, can only be synonymous to greed.
Anyway, Solar City is the 150-hectare reclamation project of a company known as Manila Goldcoast Development Corp. (MGDC), which the government approved more than 20 years ago during the time of Tita Cory.
Subsequently, the Manila city government imposed a ban on reclamation in the city, and the project stalled for years. The city government under Mayor Alfredo Lim lifted the ban a couple of years ago.
It seems that Lim, himself a former police chief of the city, wanted Manila to develop a new prestige address with the central business district proposed by MGDC in the reclamation project.
For one, it would mean more revenue for the city, not to mention the economic multiplier effect that comes with reclamation projects even in other highly populated cities of the world such as Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Amsterdam and, the grandest of them, Dubai.
By the way, the well-known Filipino urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. was involved in the Dubai reclamation project. Thus, here in the Philippines, he is advocating reclamation to spur economic development, and even address environmental issues such as sea surges due to storms.
In other words, urban planners like Palafox seem to be looking for ways for urban renewal, since huge portions of the metropolis, including the “greater Manila area,” are already so used up that we construct houses and offices even on the flood plains of Quezon City, or the “Provident” subdivision in Marikina.
But at the moment, before the reclamation project goes full blast, MGDC is working on a crucial approval from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, particularly its environment protection outfit called the Environment Management Board (EMB).
From what I gathered, MGDC submitted volumes of environmental and engineering studies to the EMB, including a master plan for the property development, which is known in urban planning as a “high density” project.
Actually, the environmental impact studies and the engineering and the master plans for Solar City already underwent three major revisions in the past 20 years or so. It seems that the MGDC wants to incorporate new “green” technology into its plans, which only emerged in various reclamation projects abroad these past few years. I learned that the company made the latest revision just last September.
Anyway, as the EMD combs the voluminous documents, a group rose up in arms against the reclamation project, attracting media sympathy—and thus broad coverage—claiming that the project would ruin the magnificent sunset scenery along Roxas Boulevard, among other dire things close to a large-scale environmental disaster.
It turned out that the reclamation actually would be done at the back of the Manila Yacht Club. Its frontage along the Roxas Boulevard would only be about 700 meters. The 150-hectare reclamation would be jutting out toward the sea, forming three sections, called “islands,” separated by channels with running water.
From what I gathered, the government actually had set tough conditions on the developer, MGDC itself. One of them was that the reclamation project should not be just another one of those dime-a-dozen real estate projects in the metropolis and its surrounding areas as far as Laguna and Bulacan.
Such a stipulation seemed well founded. Just take a look at all the “high density” development projects in this country, including Global City at Fort Bonifacio, those various 2,000-hectare subdivisions in Laguna, or even the highly successful Eastwood City in Quezon City. They are all the same: residential units, office space, and malls.
Cross my heart, there is something to excite the Department of Tourism in the Solar City reclamation: It will feature a modern dock and terminal for cruise ships, capable of berthing two to three international luxury vessels at any one time.
Come to think of it, this country—particularly the historic City of Manila with its walled city Intramuros, which should be the most expensive real estate in the country, but unfortunately it is not so—has never been included in the cruise packages in this part of the world. Why? We simply do not have the facilities.
Pure conjectures and false claims aside, the studies and master plan that MGDC submitted to the government should show that the Solar City reclamation would be a “green” project.
For example, the company submitted plans for renewable power supply that would partly use solid wastes to generate electricity. Or take its plan for water recycling systems complete with treatment plants. Also, in-between the three islands will be channels with running water—meaning, you can hardly smell the stink from Manila Bay. Along those channels, therefore, the developer can create parks and eateries, and all sorts of public facilities.
Those are things that make true environmentalists smile from ear to ear! The project is good for tourism, since the DOT wants to create new tourism activities, including the cruise ship business that we have been missing out all this time.
Moreover, based on various scientific studies, the particular 150-hectare part of Manila Bay has been an ecological disaster for the longest time, and no marine life can exist there.
According to well-known urban planners in the country, reclamation now offers the metropolis the only means to expand its land area, since the “greater Manila area” has already sprawled so far out to the north and south that the expansion has eaten up huge portions of our farmland.
The result: We are having food security nightmare.
Anyway, it seems that urban planners are also excited over the Solar City project because it does not have to deal with, well “informal settlers.” Look, there are no squatters in the sea.
In comparison, any big real estate development project in the country involved the relocation of squatters, even including those at the Global City in Fort Bonifacio, or the highway that the SM group is trying to build to connect the South Luzon Expressway with Tagaytay City. I heard that squatters burned the heavy equipment of the contractor building the road.
Studies submitted to the DENR also showed that the project would feature architectural designs and road plans that would separate pedestrians from vehicular traffic, complete with elevated walks and people-moving systems, making the walkways all-weather areas, protecting people from the harsh rain or the sweltering heat of the sun.
Really now, those are things we can hardly say about other “high density” developments in the metropolis of missing sidewalks, crowded narrow streets, and uncollected garbage.