Manila’s Reclamation Dreams

As Manila recently celebrated its 446th Araw ng Maynila last June 24, it was an opportunity for some to reminisce about Manila’s glorious past while bemoan the city’s sorry state at present. But if you ask the administration of Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, things are going to be great for the city once again.

Of course, we have been hearing this thing before, multiple times in fact to the point of being cynical and pessimistic whether things will be better for Manila. What is new though is Estrada’s plans to make this a reality. And that plan is: reclamation. Lots of it.

That’s right, Erap is banking on reclamation to help boost Manila’s development. And we’re not just talking about 1 reclamation project. Not even 2. That’s right, Estrada has approved at least 3 reclamation projects that will create new commercial and business districts in the city. Let’s take a look at each of these projects and see what each has to offer.

Manila Solar City Project

First proposed during the time of Estrada’s predecessor Alfredo Lim, the Solar City project is the oldest among the 3 to be proposed for Manila. First proposed in 2012, the project would involved the reclamation of at least 3 chunks of land in the area near the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex, which itself is reclaimed land as well.

Behind this project is the Manila Goldcoast Corporation, a company that has the Solar group of the Tiengs owning a significant stake, hence the project’s name. If/when completed, the Solar City project is envisioned to be “the Dubai of Southeast Asia,” and will “set the standards for urban development” with provisions for a monorail line and, according to some renders, even a man-made beach, the state of Manila Bay aside. Also, since the site will affect the existing location of the Manila Yacht Club, the Solar City will have provisions for the new Manila Yacht Club site as well.

The project has met with some fierce opposition the moment it was announced. Opponents have cited a longstanding ordinance which protected the Manila Bay coastline of Ermita and Malate and prohibited reclamation along that area. There is also the fear of worsening flooding in the area as a result of the reclamation. Despite the assurances of the developers and City Hall, the project put in the backburner for a while before it was revived in late 2016.

Manila Bay City of Pearl Project

Along with the revival of the Solar City project in late 2016, the Estrada administration also embarked on another reclamation project in the city, this time with the UAA Kunming Group, which is a consortium of Filipino and Chinese businessmen. Approved in February 2017, the project known as the City of Pearl will involve reclaiming a large piece of land near the mouth of the Pasig River, off what is known as the Baseco compound where many many of the city’s urban poor reside. That alone should pose quite a challenge for this project.

Along with a rail link to mainland Manila, the reclamation boasts a bustling commercial and business district that will have a sports stadium called the Pac-man stadium (after Manny Pacquiao) and a golf course, if the golf course surrounding the nearby Intramuros walls is not enough.

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Unlike the Solar City project, there is no significant opposition that has been lodged against it. So it seems it has a slightly better chance to be commenced, assuming they’ll be able to start before the end of this year.

Horizon Manila Project

The most recent commercial reclamation project approved by City Hall was announced early this June. This new reclamation project called Horizon Manila is a development of J-Bros Construction Corporation and will reclaim at a portion of Manila Bay. Where that portion of Manila Bay Horizon Manila will be reclaimed from, it is not yet known. Nor is it known what the master plan will be for this community.

courtesy of Mayor Joseph Estrada’s Facebook page

For this, and the fact that there is an agreement signed even before the details of the project is revealed, the Urban Roamer treats the Horizon Manila project with the most suspicion and skepticism at this point. Here’s hoping the details of the project will be known at the soonest time possible.

Other planned reclamation projects (yes, there’s more!)

If you think these three reclamation projects are not enough, don’t worry, there is still 1 or 2 more in the pipeline as well. Uhm….yay?

The more definite of the other reclamation projects to push through is the expansion of the present Manila Harbour Centre in Tondo. The area itself is industrial in nature and will cater to the expanding shipping operations in the area.

The other project is still up in the air, pending the results of the ongoing feasibility studies by the city’s partner for this project which is Shanghai Nanjiang Co. Ltd. This project on the other hand is residential in nature, an in-city resettlement site for the city’s urban poor residents.

Implications

All in all, we are looking at 4, possibly 5 reclamation projects going around the city’s coastline, 2 of which we don’t even know where they will be done. While there is nothing wrong with building new commercial and business districts, especially for a city like Manila that is in need of one, there is this hesitation whether these reclamation projects will get to attract new businesses to the city and spur greater development. Not to mention, there is the question that is yet to be satisfactorily addressed whether these projects will have an adverse effect on the city’s urban landscape, especially in the issue of flooding.

Let’s not also forget that Manila still has its old business and commercial districts of Binondo, Ermita, and Malate that just need some attention and revitalization. With these projects announced, there is the fear that the existing districts will fall further on the wayside. Lest we forget, one of these projects is near the Malate district itself.

On the other hand, Manila is a city that direly needs something to attract new businesses and tourists to make them stay in the city longer. Not to mention, there is the revenue potential these projects and the businesses that will be established in those areas for the city that is need of more cash. We can only hope these projects were thought well enough and that some good sense of urban planning came into developing them. (but then again, many local officials don’t even give a damn about urban planning)

Of course, there is the possibility that some, or even all, of these projects would not even manage to push through. For now, let us see what happens next.

 

Acknowledgements to Skyscrapercity

 

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