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Erosion at Blue Beach, San Rafael, Dulag, Leyte
Blue Beach Dulag is a beautiful beach and historic World War II landing site on the Leyte Gulf. It is situated at barangays (villages) San Rafael, Luan and San Jose in the municipality of Dulag, Leyte. I should have said 'once' beautiful because the beach is currently suffering serious erosion eminating from the south end of the beach immediately beside the Rock World Industries (RWI) property.
Blue Beach is 3.2 kilometres long running south to north along the western shore of the Leyte Gulf. San Jose (beach front 1.4 kilometres long) at the northern end, Luan (850 metres) in the centre, and San Rafael (950 metres) at the southern end. Blue Beach naturally runs in a straight line from a rocky point just north of the Calbasag River at the south end to a rocky point at the mouth of the Libiranan River at he northern end.
RWI is a large sand, gravel and rock business fronting the national highway in San Rafael . It's highway frontage is opposite 'Hill120', an historic site where the American flag was first raised during the liberation in October 1944. At the foreshore the property narrows to about 80 metres where there is a small beach 'resort'. This is 300 metres from the south end of the beach. On the foreshore beside RWI is a monument commemorating the spot where the first allied troops stomed ashore in 1944.
In 1997 RWI constructed a 'projecting wharf' in the form of a solid causeway extending out from the foreshore at the back of the RWI property (wharf causeway), allegedly without a licence or payment of permit fees. [Source: letter from concerned Dulag residents to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) uploaded to facebook]. This wharf causeway served as a loading point for sand and gravel on to barges for transport by sea. Not surprisingly, the wharf causeway caused a build up of sand on the south (updrift) side and erosion on the north (downdrift) side of the structure, as this satellite picture taken in late 2006 clearly shows (The erosion has considerably worsened since then with the extension of the wharf groyne and the building of cove groyne - see below).
The wharf causeway was not used for a number of years but remained as two parallel concrete walls. Then in 2009 the owner of RWI commenced a project to fill in the gap between these walls, bolster the sides of the wharf with concrete waste and extend the wharf some 20 metres. The concrete used was waste from the reblocking of the highway.
In conjunction with this RWI built a second smaller structure at the north eastern corner of the RWI property to block public access along the beach and form a private cove in front of the resort (cove wall).This activity, of course, worsened the build up of sand on the updrift side and caused further serious erosion on the downdrift side. It was done with complete disregard for the environment and to the property holders and residents along the beach. The smaller cove wall is an eyesore; it is an obstruction for people walking along the beach and has added considerably to the already serious erosion.
When further erosion in behind the cove wall started, RWI added more concrete rubble near the northern side of the property (actually on the property next door) following the curved shape of the erosion. This caused a more swirling action by the waves making the erosion much worse. Beside the cove wall the beach head has moved a further 25 metres inland. This has caused the beach head to change its position and the erosion has moved slowly and surely north along the beach uprooting rows of coconut trees, downing fences and threatening houses. The beach on the north side of RWI is now 80 metres inland from the beach on the south side of RWI.
Our land is 400 metres north of RWI. According to our title plan our land extends for another 25 metres beyond where the beach head now is. Blocks closer to RWI have lost considerably more land to the sea than that. Why don't the authorities conduct a survey to determine how much land has been lost to the erosion?
Residents have raised the problem through the San Rafael Barangay Chairman, the Mayor of Dulag (Document 01) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Responding to a letter signed by myself and 50 other residents of San Rafael (Document 02), Officers from Provincial Environment and Natural Reasources Office (PENR) visited the site on 17 December 2010 and concluded that 'there was no erosion in the area' (near RWI). (Really!)We sent a follow-up letter to DENR on 11 January 2011 (Document 03). After being informed the matter was being referred to the Mines and GeoServices Bureau (MGB) we emailed MGB to ensure they knew our position on the situation (Document 04)
Those who trivialise the effect of the groynes and rather seek to blame tne erosion on 'natural factors' or the ongoing small scale gravel extraction along the beaches in the area, must answer the following questions:
Blue Beach is a major historical site. It is the place where MacArthur's troops first landed in October 1944. It is arguably the place where MacArthur himself first stepped ashore. On clear day from Blue Beach you can see Homonhon Island out in the Gulf where Magellan first landed in the Philippines and where the first Mass was held in the Philippines. The naval Battle for the Leyte Gulf off the coast here remains the largest naval battle in history in terms of tonnage. The importance of the battles for Leyte can not be understated:
The Battle of Leyte launched the Allied reconquest of the entire Philippine archipelago and the end of the Japanese occupation of the country. It was at Leyte that the Japanese High Command staked everything. Their defeat hastened Japan’s downfall. The losses suffered by the Japanese were heavy; 49,000 troops were killed while the Imperial Japanese Navy lost 26 major warships, 46 large transport ships, and hundreds of merchant ships. The Allied forces recaptured Leyte with minimal losses – only 3,504 killed in action. The Allied victory gained for them a major bastion upon which the Japanese homeland could be destroyed.
66th Anniversary of Leyte Landing, Manila Bulletin, October 19, 2010Blue Beach should be treated as a sacred place to be admired for its beauty and respected for its historical significance. A place where men sacrificed their lives to end the horrors of the Japanese occupation. A place where across the water the first Mass was celebrated in the Philippines. A place where tourists should be welcomed to admire its beauty and contemplate the sacrifices made.
Instead what do we have? An ugly, destructive monument to greed at the very spot where the allied troops first came ashore in 1944.. A beach wrecked by the resulting erosion. A community unwilling or unable to do anything about it. National Government Departments seemingly powerless to do anything about it. It is Dulag's shame!
1. Satellite picture of the area before the cove wall was built and the wharf causeway was extended:
2. With the cove wharf and extended causeway wharf drawn in, illustrating the increased erosion
on the north side and the build up of sand on the south aside