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.


Feny Cosico and John “Warner” Carag have selected Joy Santiago and Jake Mendoza as their scientific leads. Joy and Jake will:

  • 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 Joy and Jake will:

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

This project started in February 2019 and will take approximately 6-8 months to complete.

Project Team

Community Leads

Warner Carag is a biologist and the Secretary-General of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People or AGHAM – Diliman Chapter. Warner served as a biologist during AGHAM’s Environmental Investigation Mission which assessed the impact of the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project in Panay island, Philippines, the first large scale dam project in the Visayas area. He is also a graduate student in the National Institute of Geological Sciences, University of the Philippines – Diliman.

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.