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Scientists warn vs ‘smart city’ reclamation in Dumaguete

By: Karlowe Brier - Philippine Daily Inquirer | August 21,2021 - 10:17 AM

WILL IT DISAPPEAR? A view of Dumaguete City’s popular Boulevard, which will be affected by the proposed 174-hectare reclamation project —PHOTO COURTESY OF KENZO LAXINA

DUMAGUETE CITY—An environmental scientist warned not only of coral reef destruction if the proposed 174-hectare reclamation project here would push through but also of its vulnerability to destruction by an earthquake.

Dr. Janet Estacion, director of the Silliman University’s Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences, said that while officials of Dumaguete City floated the possibility of relocating the marine ecosystems in the area, it would not address the real problem of coral reef destruction.

“The thing about relocation now is that the technology is not yet there. The study about coral relocation is unbelievable considering the irreversible damage in transferring the corals,” she said before the city council on Aug. 18.

Estacion said it would take three years to determine if the corals that were transferred to another location survived, and 30 years to find out if they have fully recovered.

Making sure the corals survived would cost P2.7 billion, while maintaining them until they fully recovered could amount to P27 billion, she said.

Estacion also cited the active Negros Oriental fault line, which will make the reclamation project vulnerable to earthquakes.

“When an earthquake will shake the land, it will cause loosening and displacement of sediments, causing pore spaces, thus destabilizing the soil. So, if you have a weight over that, it will sink,” she said.

Estacion recalled the liquefaction or the sinking of land areas in Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental when a strong earthquake shook parts of Negros Island in 2012.

“There are inherent causes which we do not see right now, but which will very much occur in the future,” she said.

Marine mammals in danger

Another scientist, Lemnuel Aragones, professor of the University of the Philippines Diliman and former director of the school’s Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, also asked the city to reconsider the project.

He said the “dump and fill” project would also affect the water’s “productivity” that ensures food for many marine animals including dolphins and whales in the nearby Tañon Strait, the largest marine protected area in the Philippines and home to many species of whales and dolphins.

“There have already been so many environmental disasters due to miscalculations in the Philippines. Do not let this be another one. Please do the right thing to ensure the continuity of our ecological integrity,” Aragones said in a recent letter to Dumaguete Mayor Felipe Remollo.

The Dumaguete reclamation project, which local officials dubbed “Smart City,” is envisioned to be a mixed-use commercial and residential area, featuring malls, condominiums, hospitals, business hubs and a docking port for a planned yacht club, among others.

Several groups, including environmental advocates, have opposed the project which they said was deliberated hastily and would destroy marine life in the city.

On July 7, the city council authorized Remollo to sign a joint venture agreement with Manila-based construction firm E.M. Cuerpo Inc.

The Inquirer tried but failed to reach E.M. Cuerpo on Friday. Remollo promised to send a text message in response to the plea of Estacion and Aragones but no reply was sent as of press time.

Remollo has previously asked residents to be “enlightened” about the objectives of the reclamation and promised to hold a public forum to explain the economic benefits of the project.

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TAGS: Dumaguete City, reclamation project

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