THE country’s largest shipping group Philippine Coastwise Shipping Association (PCSA) will bring to the Office of the President its objection over the proposed 234.80-hectare Seafront City reclamation project in Consolacion, Cebu, saying it will negatively impact the future of Cebu’s maritime industry and will further add to the burden of shippers that are currently facing huge losses amid this pandemic.
“We are very concerned about this that we already wrote a letter supporting the position of the shipyards,” said PCSA chairman Lucio Lim Jr. in a virtual interview.
Initially, the group already wrote a letter to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources 7 in February this year, calling for the project to be “outrightly denied” because of the negative consequences it pose to the maritime industry and to the environment.
“Reclamation when used in the guise of development should be carefully studied taking into account the heavy burdens and consequences it will cause to existing use of the area sought to be reclaimed as in the case of the proposed project... Thus, bearing those in mind, along with resultant negative consequences to the maritime industry that find the Consolacion area very valuable to shipping, shipyards and entire marine ecosystem, approval of the proposed Consolacion reclamation project should not be given due course and should outrightly be denied,” the letter said.
Lim said the group will also furnish the same letter to President Rodrigo Duterte and to the secretaries of the Philippine Reclamation Authority and the DENR.
The proposed Seafront City reclamation project is a consortium with a private firm La Consolacion Seafront Development Inc. and the Municipal Government of Consolacion.
This mixed-use reclamation project is envisioned to become an international economic hub.
Shortage of shipyards
The PCSA stressed that the proposed project will displace shipyards and repair yards in the area. The group said shipyards and ship repair yards are indispensable to the shipping industry because ships are required to be dry docked and repaired periodically.
“Majority of shipyards are located in Consolacion. They serve the dry docking and repair needs of most ships in the Visayas and even ships from Southern Luzon and Northern Mindanao. They also serve some of the dry docking needs of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy,” the group said.
Lim said if they are to be removed in favor of the reclamation project: “Where will they park their ships? That is where all of us go when there is a typhoon.”
“The Consolacion reclamation project will force the closure of the shipyards in Consolacion. Undoubtedly, this will affect a very large part of the shipping industry,” the group said.
Already, the number of shipyards in the Visayas is not enough to serve the present number of ships, according to the PCSA. Shipowners already have difficulty in having their ships repaired or dry docked due to the limited number of shipyards in the country and queuing is required.
“You have to wait for a few months to get dry dock. That’s the biggest problem,” Lim said, noting that it takes 15 to 30 days to dry dock a vessel every two years.
“Without these essential dry docking and repair facilities, ships, whose dry docking dates become due, will not be able to undergo the required periodic drydocking and repair, and thus will become un-operational. Soon enough, there will be quite a number of them becoming un-operational. A good number of routes will be expected to be left unserved by ships. A result of this would be a partial economic paralysis at least in some parts the Visayas region,” the group further warned.
Critical to ships’ safety
The PCSA also noted that the proposed reclamation project is a “hazard to safe navigation of ships.”
The group said the waters off Consolacion area serve three important purposes for ships. First, it serves as an essential entrance to the Cebu North Channel, as a navigational fairway for safe passage of ships. Second, it serves as an anchorage area for ships while waiting for availability of berthing space at Cebu Port and third, it also a shelter area for ships during typhoons.
“With the proposed reclamation project, its wide expanse of ‘protected waters’ will consequently be narrowed, thereby reducing or removing altogether the area for ships to safely navigate, anchor or shelter. Thus, the far-reaching consequences of having this project approved are immense and certainly detrimental to the Philippine shipping industry,” the group said.
The PCSA also argued that the project will “alter the natural passageway of water inside the bay.”
“It must be emphasized that the area to be reclaimed is a natural passageway of water inside the bay. With the flattening of mountains, the water inside the bay continues to increase. Thus, during the changing of tides, with narrowing of the water passageway, heavy flooding is imminent to occur,” the PCSA said, noting that there are already cases of flooding in some barangays of Consolacion during heavy rains even without this reclamation project.
Moreover, the area is also currently used as a waterway for silt.
“With the planned reclamation, which will definitely narrow the passageway, the silt in the area will now go to the main passageway of ships and will certainly cause hardship for vessels transiting the area. Also, once the reclamation project pushes through, the narrowing of the waterway will lead to an increase in the velocity of water current along the North Channel, rendering the fairway to be unsafe for ships as there would be an increase of risk for ships to hit bridge, foundations and structures within the navigational area,” the letter said.
The group also raised its concern over the marine ecosystem that will be destroyed if the reclamation project gets the go signal.
“The unimaginable consequences to marine ecosystem and threat to worsening flooding in the community certainly weigh against the gains in building commercial and residential buildings as proposed by the developer” the group said.
PCSA operates more than 500 ships, ferrying thousands of passengers daily and transporting cargoes nationwide. Its fleet covers short-, medium- and long-haul routes and is the main transporter of goods in the logistics chain and the primary operator of roll-on/roll-off ships in the Strong Republic Nautical Highway. (KOC)