Investigating Environmental Impacts of Land Reclamation Projects in Manila Bay Coastal Areas

Bulacan Province, Philippines

Featured image for the project, Investigating Environmental Impacts of Land Reclamation Projects in Manila Bay Coastal Areas

Photo Credit: AKAP KA-Manila Bay


Fisherfolk and their larger communities depend on the ecosystem of the Manila Bay coastal areas of Bulacan for their livelihood, for example, the 40,000 residents of the municipality of Paombong, Bulacan. Bulacan is a province in the Philippines just north of the national capital region of Manila.  At 34% poverty incidence, fisherfolk comprise one of the poorest sectors of Philippine society yet contribute greatly to the country’s food security. However, these communities are in danger of being displaced, their sources of livelihood destroyed, and the environment at risk in order to make way for massive land reclamation projects that claim to be development projects that will improve the economy and local communities’ everyday lives.


While reclamation projects can be a source of much needed development that local communities need, the current findings from an expert geologist strongly suggest that an urgent and extensive research study needs to be conducted to mitigate—if not altogether prevent—the possible harmful effects on the environment and the people that these projects may cause in Bulacan. The specific objective of this project is to understand the impacts of reclamation and road projects along Manila Bay upon the community of Bulacan.


Residents have reported that representatives of so-called Silvertines Incorporated, an alleged consortium of big investors in the Philippines, have been bothering them about buying out vast areas of fish ponds. Over 3,000 hectares of fish ponds have already been procured. Fisherfolk have started to experience dwindling catches due to large-scale fish cage farms now operated by Silvertines Corporation.


Further, the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has already published several press releases about developing a 2,500-hectare Aerotropolis. The project is planned to be a metropolitan subregion where the layout, infrastructure, and economy are centered on an airport which serves as a multimodal “airport city” commercial core. Construction of the Aerotropolis would necessarily require removal of the already-vulnerable coastal communities.


With preliminary consultation from University of Illinois at Chicago geologist Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, the community has learned that the reclamation project has a lethal risk for aggravating geophysical hazards. In particular, the hazards include danger of land subsidence; danger of storm surge and strong waves caused by typhoons; and danger from seismically induced liquefaction.


The project would have far-reaching impacts beyond the province of Bulacan. San Miguel Corporation’s Aerotropolis is only part of a larger reclamation project called the Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense, and Expressway Project proposed by the Coastal Development Consortium (CDC). The CDC is composed of the New San Jose Builders Inc. and the San Miguel Holdings Corp., a subsidiary of the San Miguel Corporation. Later, this project could be replicated to cover not only the coast of Bulacan but also the provinces of Pampanga and Bataan. The output of the project will not only inform, but also empower affected communities for education and awareness building to strengthen the community-based organization and lobbying with the legislators for policy advocacy.

About the Community

The local partners are Fr. Anacleto Ignacio, convenor of Pagtatanggol ng Kabuhayan, Paninirahan at Kalikasan sa Manila Bay (AKAP KA-Manila Bay) and Ansie Paderes, Program Coordinator of Center for Education and Developmental Studies (CEDS). They commit to:


  1. Coordinating with the grassroots community and other stakeholders in the preparation for the site visit.
  2. Participating in the conduct of the field study by providing assistance in the documentation of the research activities.
  3. Assisting in the preparation of the white paper.


In addition to the local partners, the scientist(s) would work primarily with Maria Finesa Cosico, Secretary General of AGHAM-Advocates for Science and Technology for the People. Ms. Cosico will commit to do the following:


  1. Facilitate the coordination with the local partner organizations for the planning of the site visits of the communities; connections with community leaders and local scientists/experts; and focus group discussions among community members;
  2. Organize site investigations for geotechnical, hydrologic, hydraulic studies, marine and coastal ecosystems and other biodiversity areas.
  3. Conducts consultation with the local partner organization in generating analysis on the socio-economic impact study that integrates local and national situation;
  4. Coordinate with the local partners for the logistical requirements of the project


The community is open to scientific partner(s) bringing in other scientists, students and other collaborators to provide the aforementioned services.

Scientist Wanted

Fr. Ignacio, Ansie and Maria Finesa seek scientific partner(s) to:

  • Investigate ecological impact in the sources of fill material and disposal of unsuitable in-situ material;
  • Assess risks of land subsidence; storm surge and strong waves caused by typhoons; and seismically induced liquefaction;
  • Evaluate erodibility, hydraulics, and geologic conditions of the site;
  • Sub-surface investigation, in-situ testing, and laboratory testing; and
  • Model the predicted changes in coastal water circulation, water quality, pollution, erosion, high storm surges, heavy metals and toxins, and/or flood and typhoon risk;


The community anticipates that the scientific partner(s) will:

  1. Contribute to the development of a white paper to be used by the community in an education and advocacy campaign
  2. Provide access to/necessary equipment for field work;
  3. Have access to and be able to facilitate laboratory testing, as necessary.


Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Geotechnical engineering, coastal geology, remote sensing, seismology, marine biology, fisheries, environmental scientists and other related expertise.
  • Ability to work with the community to provide technical expertise and guidance according to the terms outlined above.
  • Ability to translate difficult science terminology for a lay audience
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Competent, open to new ideas, and patient
  • It is also highly recommended that the scientists will have actual field work in the impact areas to to deepen his understanding on the issue.
  • Ability to connect with the community in-person or remotely.


Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators.  This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.


Timeline and Outcome

The collaboration between the community and the selected scientific partner(s) should start in January 2019. The community anticipates that this project will take approximately 6-8 months.

The primary deliverable(s) for this project will be to:

  1. Develop a report on the impact of the reclamation project to the community
  2. Provide layman explanations of the geomorphological and environmental (marine and coastal) issues.
  3. Present results in community-hosted assemblies in Bulacan, as well as Pampanga and Bataan in preparation for replicating the research in these provinces.
  4. Present results to the local government units, concerned national government agencies and legislators for government intervention and legislative measures.

We anticipate that this scientific investigation in Bulacan could be replicated in the neighboring provinces of Bataan and Pampanga. Hence, the report should be understandable at the community level. Bataan and Pampanga coastal residents as well experience the same and even worse fate. In Sasmuan and Lubao, Pampanga, there was a report that a number of coastal residents and their structures will be demolished. Perceived to be connected to the CDC project, several coastal communities are also under demolition and livelihood threats to pave way for the expansion of Petron-San Miguel in Limay, for the suspected shipyard project of SMC and other multinational corporations in Sta. Elena and Kapunitan in Orion and others.

Collaborating Organization(s)

AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People is the partner national organization. AGHAM, is an organization of patriotric, pro-people science and technology advocates, bounded together by a common interest of promoting science and technology that genuinely serve the interest of the Filipino people, especially the poor.