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DENR: Scientists, experts needed for impact assessment of Manila Bay reclamation

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is currently assembling a team of scientists and experts to conduct a cumulative impact assessment of Manila Bay reclamation projects.

“So, we have started to talk to the different scientists that will be part of that. Just to give you an idea, hindi lang po siya environmental science broadly because it is involving a bay system which leads to the ocean,” Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.

“We do need physical oceanographer, we do need a chemical oceanographer, we need a fisheries expert, we need a….marine biologist. We need certain types of engineers in terms of the evaluation of the potential infrastructure that will be introduced. So hindi po madali ang composition ng cumulative impact assessment team.”

In the case of the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan, a Filipino scientific team and a foreign team were contracted.

This time, however, Yulo-Loyzaga said it will be done by a predominantly Filipino scientific team with some technical assistance from foreign experts but will be led by a Filipino team.

Asked if the government will halt reclamation projects if there is a negative impact based on the cumulative assessment, Yulo-Loyzaga said: “I think what’s important is reclamation has a certain value, obviously in terms of the economy.”

“However, we need to do the cost benefit analysis in terms of the impact to the ecology and the longer term impact in terms of possibly what could result from climate change,” she said.

For example, sea level rise and different possible geological events such as the “Big One” need to be considered, she explained, referring to the risk assessment that a major earthquake will happen in Metro Manila.

In case the “Big One” occurs, Metro Manila is predicted to be split into four segments, with coastal areas facing Manila Bay among those forming part of the separations, because of which rescue and relief operations will have to be done by air and by sea.

“So, reclamation projects could possibly have an impact on that plan. Sa inyo po, you can look up ‘Oplan Yakal Plus’. Secondly, in terms of sea level rise… all of these need to be taken into consideration in terms of scenarios for reclamation as well as the subsidence that is ongoing because of the extraction of groundwater from the coastal areas of Manila Bay,” she said.

Additionally, on geological hazards, the DENR secretary said that the Manila Trench situated at Manila Bay must also be looked at.

“That is the geological event that we should be looking at in terms of the generation of a potential tsunami. So, iyon po ang hindi ko pa nakikita po sa mga studies na sinubmit (submit) po ng mga proponents,” she said. | PND

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