IT TOOK several weeks to resume this discussion on the planned reclamation of the shoreline of Bacolod. The city has interposed no objections and the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the idea as it claims the project will “create thousands of jobs and make Bacolod more attractive to investors.” The expanded area of the city will mean, the MBCCI said, large enough for more investments like hotels, malls and other recreational establishments.”

There is no question the enlarged area, situated at the shoreline boundary of the city will bring jobs and businesses as the present reclaimed area had done. Moreover, Bredco’s president, John Palanca Alonte, said the company will invest P24 billion for this new project that is planned to add 300 hectares of foreshore land. Bredco already covers 250 hectares of reclaimed area.

News report say of the total 300 hectares, Bredco will retain 52.5% of the reclaimed land, 10% will go to the city government, 30% will be allocated for roadways and 7.5% will be given to the Philippine Reclamation Authority.

Councilor Ceasar Distrito claimed there was a public consultation on this project. The problem is that the public knew of it after the Sanggunian approved the “No objection resolution.” The Sanggunian has its own public that always agrees to it as it did when it approved the resolution to borrow P1.7 billion for various projects.

Two things are said in favor of the project: 1) it will decongest the central business district such as the downtown area; and 2) the reclamation development will result to lesser value of land.

These are projections, but reality can be different entirely. For instance, where will the entrances and exits of the area will be? Considering the north and south boundaries of the present reclaimed area; the new one will extend seaward and use the same terminus for entry and exit being used now. Unless there are different areas for this purpose, the present one will have a gigantic gridlock.

The cost of reclamation is not cheap. It will be cheaper to expand the city perimeter eastward than seaward.

Environmentalists say that reclamation projects “can only be compounded by the threats posed by global warming, storm surge and rising sea levels” and that “reclaimed land may also be dangerous during earthquakes since the soil used is not compacted as well as original bedrock, leading to less stable foundations for buildings

They cited scientist Dr. Giovanni Tapang who said that the reclamation of the more than 38,000 hectares in the NRP will mean a loss of the same amount of sea grass, the spawning ground and habitat of aquatic life. This could lead to an annual loss of 4.7 billion invertebrates and 3.78 trillion fish, the source of livelihood for fishermen and food supply for the entire country.”

The proposed reclamation will raise environmental questions as in 2015 when the Philippine Port Authority wanted to reclaim a small area of 2.5 hectares around the Banago Wharf to serve its needs, like container yards. However, city councilors opposed it partly because the project will affect the livelihood of the fishermen. That project was abandoned but now the councilors approved the 300 hectares project that will definitely force more fishermen to lose their source of livelihood. Did the city consult them?

If this project has nothing to hide, Bredco should come out with full disclosure because the impact on the environment will be tremendous. One concern is where Bredco will draw the soil? As the name suggest, it will “reclaim” land from the sea, but unlike in 1961 the coastline is no longer shallow. Prior to the present reclamation, low tide went all the way out by a kilometer. That is no longer the situation.

In fact, for the expansion for its finger ports, Bredco hauled hundreds of tons of soil. A hill I visited in Talisay was total leveled. That was not enough that the contractors dug out its base and created a lake. This is just one source.

I suspect there will be no dredging but the hauling of thousands of tons of soil from the mountains and hills outside of Bacolod. This means not only a change in the landscape but the destruction of trees and leveling of the land that can cause soil erosion and flooding.

We’ll discuss more of this issue later.