Bulacan Aeropolis: Man-made Disaster Aggravating Natural Causes?

 
The Hazard and Vulnerability Map of the Bulacan when overlaid to the political map of the province, reveals that the convergence of the major rivers of Baliuag, Plaridel and Malolos is right on top of the municipality of “Bulakan”, the location of the 2,500 hectare reclamation for the Bulacan Airport and aeropolis, before it outflows to the Marilao River onto the  Camanava district of Metro Manila.        
 

By Ado Paglinawan

 

Part Two: How Mother Nature Punishes our Negligence and Corruption

(NOTE: This Aide Memoire to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources constitutes Chapter 17, page 183 of my latest book The Poverty of Power released last November 2022. To buy book, text 0917-336-4366.)

“Bakit hindi lumalabas ang tubig?” (Why is the flood not exiting to the Manila Bay?)

This was the question President Bongbong Marcos asked that was more exclamatory than interrogative, when he consulted Pampanga and Bulacan local officials and government water agency heads last August 7, 2023 regarding the massive Central Luzon flooding.

BAKIT ‘DI LUMALABAS ANG TUBIG? – President Bongbong Maroc

Last July 29, Typhoon Egay made landfall on Northern Luzon and worsened by the southwest monsoon (“habagat”) brought unprecedent rains that eventually caused unprecedented inundation in Bulacan and Pampanga that has never been witnessed since 1972.

Only one courageous Congresswoman Anna Bondoc engaged the President who was only on a selling mode for the proposed Candaba Impounding System and who was not really concerned about the root causes of the flood that has severely worsened.

Ms. Bondoc correctly identified the first problem – the rivers and creeks are heavily silted and needs immediate dredging. She also wanted to discuss the second problem caused by nature, subsidence of the surface lands, and the third problem which is a man-made disaster – the Bulacan Airport. But President Marcos Jr. progressively cut her short, redirecting earlier the imperative:

“Instead of arguing about it, what do you suggest?”

VIDEO: WHATS THE SOLUTION?
 

I am sorry but I cannot just gloss over the gravitas of where Ms. Bondoc was taking the discussion.

A major part of the answer to the President’s question – what is blocking the exhaust of floodwaters onto the Manila Bay, is the reclamation project by San Miguel Corporation for the proposed Bulacan Airport and Aerocity at the very mouth of Bulacan province to the bay.

Just look at the picture. That obstruction is a whooping 2,500 hectares that may compared to 20% the size of the entire Quezon City or 40% of Hacienda Luisita, equivalent to about 3 to 4 municipalities in Bulcacan.

Despite widespread stakeholders’ protests, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources under Secretary Roy Cimatu issued an Environmental Clearance Certificate to an SMC subsidiary land development corporation in 2019.

Pampanga River Basin

Any impact study, like the one done by scientists led by Kevin Rodolfo begins its  dynamics as rainwater rushes from the mountain ranges of the north – from the west Zambales Ranges, the Cordilleras, Caraballo Mountains up to the Sierra Madre on the east, to the south through an intricate system of rivers and deltas known as the Pampanga River Basin.

Pampanga River and its tributaries
 

A river basin is the portion of land drained by a river and its tributaries. It encompasses all of the land surface dissected and drained by many streams and creeks that flow downhill into one another, and eventually into a major vein – the Pampanga River.

From the east of Luzon, the upper Pampanga River begins from the Pantabangan Reservoir that collects water from Caraballo Mountains of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Northern Aurora provinces.

As it begins to traverse southwards collecting water from the Sierra Madre at Southern Aurora, its first major tributary is the Coronel River, converging at Sapang Buho down to Mayapyap in Nueva Ecija. The second tributary is the Penaranda River gathering water from northern Quezon and converging with the Pampanga River at San Isidro, still at Nueva Ecija.

From the west, inflow to the Pampanga River is also contributed by the Pasac-Guagua River Group.

From the northwest, the Chico River Watershed has its headwaters coming from Mt. Data, Bauko, Mt. Province and empties into the Cagayan River. However, it threads a tributary going southwards through Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, converging with the Pampanga River’s eastern flow before reaching Mt. Arayat in the province of Pampanga. starting the lower Pampanga River.

 
 

Mount Arayat (elevation: 1,026 metres or 3,366 ft) stands in the middle of the basin, and marks the start of the lower Pampnaga River.

Southeast of Mount Arayat and the Pampanga River is the Candaba Swamp, covering an area of some 250 square kilometres (97 sq mi) absorbing most of the flood flows from the western slopes of a portion of the Sierra Madre and the overflowing of the Pampanga River via the Cabiao Floodway.

This area is submerged during the rainy season but is relatively dry during summer.

If at the southeast Laguna Bay serves as the natural impounding system, westward, that purpose is served by the Candaba Swamp that is 32,000 hectares composed mainly of freshwater ponds, swamps, and marshes with surrounding areas of seasonally flooded grassland and arable land on a vast alluvial plain.

Notably, the Angat River from the east also as a tributary, joins the Pampanga River at Calumpit, Bulacan via the Bagbag River.                                                                                                           

Any overflow of the Pampanga River going eastwards is caught by the Baliuag and Malolos Rivers and converges over Bulacan municipality, the location of the 2,500 hectare reclamation for the Bulacan Aeropolis.

 

If we were to overlay the Pampanga River Basin map over the geography of Pampanga and Bulacan, the convergence of the waters exiting to the Manila Bay is right smack into the Bulacan Airport location.

 
ECHO – WHATS THE SOLUTION?
 

Environmental Clearance Certificate lamely explained

Why the ECC was awarded baffles me. I am not even yet imputing any financial considerations that could have changed hands for this regional accommodation. Our investigations are still ongoing.

Five months after I filed a formal protest against the ECC that DENR issued the project, the official letter I got, dated January 15, 2020, from Atty. Analiza Rebuelta-Teh, DENR undersecretary for mining concerns and climate change service, said:

  • “The Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued to Silvertides Holdings Corp. on June 14, 2019 was for a land development project located at Barangay Taliptip and Bambang, Bulakan, Bulacan, not for an airport development project.
  • “Projected flooding surrounding the land development project of Silvertides is addressed in the conditions of their approved ECC.”

Note that the word used is “land development” when actually as explained earlier, it is really a “reclamation”.

Nevertheless, DENR categorically says “NOT FOR AN AIRPORT…”

San Miguel Corporation, however, has not stopped solidifying its position and sought a Congressional franchise. The bill sailed through filing, to committee study and report, to first, second and third reading in both upper and lower houses for a record one-month and when everyone was distracted by Covid-19.

San Miguel Aerocity, Inc. was granted the franchise for the P740-billion Bulacan airport after the legislation lapsed into law last month.

Republic Act No. 11506 granting the company the franchise to construct and operate the domestic and international airport in Bulacan lapsed into law on Dec. 20 after President Rodrigo R. Duterte failed to sign the bill within 30 days after receipt.

It seems together with Philvocs, belong to me the sole voice in the wilderness arguing on the basis of safety, science-based threats, and environmental hazards.

The Supreme Court has also dismissed a “writ of kalikasan,” filed by stakeholders, a legal remedy that protects constitutional rights to a healthy environment.

The San Miguel Corp. (SMC) subsidiary will be granted tax exemptions during a decade-long maximum construction period. The company can then continue to enjoy tax exemptions after construction and until the Bureau of Internal Revenue decides that it has fully recovered its investment costs.

The 50-year franchise, which includes the construction period, also entitles the company to a 12% revenue share each year until investment recovery has been determined.

The company has said that it plans to start construction in the first quarter of 2022, with land development work to be done by Dutch firm Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V., through its local units Boskalis Philippines, Inc.

DENR clarified however that the ECC it awarded Silvertides is for horizontal development. The airport and the aerocity are supposed to get their own ECCs if they proceed with any vertical infrastructure.

But throughout Bulacan, it seems San Miguel; has already gone on a shopping spree of all the local government officials to sign up like the proverbial three monkeys –seeing, hearing and speaking no evil. They have even signed an endorsement of this project that could mean a death sentence for their own constituencies.

Reiterating what have been said earlier, of incompetence, consequences disadvantageous not just to government, and devastating repercussions of potentially undetermined proportions to human life and safety, it is a prima facie candidate for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Remember, Philkairos already confessed to probable flooding, glaringly in their report

The environmental impact consultants, however, stopped short of describing the deadly implications of their “land development” to the overall environment and natural resources, not to mention the migratory and endangered birds, the vast mangroves and marine life and the overall well-being of the fisherfolk that the project has dislocated.

Ramon Ang’s Magic Canal

For a developer, logic dictates that the elevation of his reclamation will be a lot higher than the prevailing land elevation in its surrounding. On top of that, according to his press releases, the New Manila International Airport and its aeropolis will be protected by a semi-circumferential canal system.

 

I think this is what the DENR took into consideration when it issued an environmental clearance certificate to this project. But what obviously Roy Cimatu forgot were the millions of residents in the surrounding areas, already suffering from almost a year-round flooding even before the reclamation began.

DENR also missed out on requiring Silvertides SMC to first built the canal system before proceeding with any reclamation. Now there is water, water everywhere!

I know on personal knowledge that roads and drainage systems on the left side of MacArthur Highway, notably in Meycauayan and Marilao have already been raised by as much as three meters in some areas.

Unfortunately, by the principle of water displacement, the flooding has attacked residential lots. Many no longer use the first floor of their homes.

As we speak, because the Bulacan Airport reclamation is blocking the outflow to Manila Bay through the natural river basins, the floods are threatening to eat up the North Luzon Expressway as it is also experiencing inundation from the west because of the overflow of the Pampanga River that aggravates water levels in the Candaba Swamp. NLEX went under almost two feet in the area of Tulaoc Bridge in San Simon, Pampanga, causing an unprecedented 10-kilometer backup in northward and southward traffic for days. (NLEX photo).

 

Ramon Ang’s genies must best the Japanese geological and construction experts, who despite the great fortune that has been poured into the Kansai Airport at Osaka, Japan, are still scratching their heads on what next to do. The airport island is forever sinking. De-flooding the facility, from time to time, has been a major nightmare because of its humungous costs.

Since time immemorial man has never won over nature. Maybe it’s time for Bulacan and Pampanga to build its own Noah’s Ark!

To be continued: Next Issue – A case of a highschool experiment and the Specter of Liquefaction

 
<strong>Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan</strong>
Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

is the anchor of Ang Maestro – the Unfinished Revolution at Radyo Pilipinas1, co-host of Opinyon Ngayon at Golden Nation Network Television, a political analyst, and author of books. His third book, The Poverty of Power will soon be off-the-press. It is a historiography of controversial issues of spanning 36 years leading to the Demise of the Edsa Revolution and the Rise of the Philippine Phoenix. Paglinawan’s past best sellers have been A Problem for Every Solution (2015), a characterization of factors affecting Philippine-China relations, and No Vaccine for a Virus called Racism (2020) a survey of international news attempting to tracing its origins. These important achievements earned for him to be named one of the 2021 international laureates for the Awards for the Promotion of Philippine-China Understanding. Ado, as he called for short, was a former press attaché and spokesman of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the Philippines’ Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Facebook

 

Email: contact@asiancenturyph.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiancenturyph/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AsianCenturyPH

Leave a Reply

Trending

%d bloggers like this: