MANILA, Philippines — The site of the proposed international airport in Bulacan—fishing and mangrove areas—is facing several geohazards and frequent floodings, experts said Wednesday.
Although it is located far from any fault systems, the site of the New Manila International Airport may face strong ground shaking and liquefaction during earthquakes, Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said. Liquefaction happens when loosely packed ground surface loses strength during earthquakes.
“The area is mainly underlain by sand and the water table is very shallow,” Solidum said during the Senate hearing on the franchise for San Miguel Corp.'s aerocity.
“This environment would require special engineering intervention to make building and infrastructure resilient to hazards due to earthquake events or to other related activities such a heavy rainfall,” he added.
At risk from storm surge, AGHAM says
The group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), which conducted its own environmental impact assessment of the area, said the entire 2,500-hectare aerotropolis could be inundated by water if a storm surge happens.
The site where the airport city is planned to be built and its neighboring low-lying towns in Bulacan province are known flood-prone areas, Solidum also said.
But he stressed that the airport project can push through as long as there are disaster risk reduction and business continuity protocols in place.
“The proponent must ensure appropriate engineering interventions so they have lesser risks in operations and potential of local government being affected is lessened,” the Phivolcs director said.
SMC, for its part, said it has tapped the firms behind Changi Airport in Singapore and France’s Charles de Gaulle Airport. The company added that it plans to dredge and increase the carrying capacity of rivers in and around the site of the airport.
NewsX: Fed by the waters
Environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, vice president of non-profit Oceana Philippines, urged lawmakers to consider the implications of the airport project not only to the environment but also to food security.
“Manila Bay is still considered a rich sardines spawning area so Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite. These areas that are subject of reclamation projects should be protected because this is where our sardines lay their eggs and have their larvae,” Ramos said.
“Food security is not something we should disregard because of illegal fishing, overfishing that is happening,” she added.
A 2017 fisheries resources and ecological assessment of Manila Bay found that fish eggs and crustacean larvae were abundant in the eastern portions of Manila Bay, particularly along Bulacan, Metro Manila and Cavite from 2012 to 2015.
Raymund Fantonalgo, a marine scientist, told Philstar.com in an interview last year that the area where the aerotropolis will be built is a productive nursery and feeding ground because of the rich mangrove ecosystem in the area.
Ramos also stressed that the site of the planned airport is important as it holds the remaining mangrove forests in Luzon. Mangrove areas do not only provide breeding grounds for marine species but they also help protect the coast from waves and cyclones.
The planned New Manila International Airport, which will have four runways, is seen by its proponents and the government as a solution to ease congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Last June, a resident of Taliptip told Philstar.com that coastal communities were allegedly given P250,000 in exchange of demolishing their own homes.
San Miguel said some 384 families will be displaced by the project. The company said they will be provided relocation sites and sources of livelihood.
Early in September, the House of Representatives approved a measure granting SMC a franchise to construct, operate and maintain the airport complex.
Photo essay: Home is where the coast is