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Philippine cities facing ‘slow-motion disaster’
20 May 2019, 12:49 PM

When Mary Ann San Jose moved to Sitio Pariahan more than two decades ago, she could walk to the local chapel. Today, reaching it requires a swim.

The main culprit is catastrophic subsidence caused by groundwater being pumped out from below, often via unregulated wells for homes, factories, and farms catering to a booming population and growing economy.

The steady sinking of coastal towns and islets like Pariahan in the northern Philippines has caused Manila Bay’s brackish water to pour inland and displace thousands, posing a greater threat than rising sea levels due to climate change.

“It was so beautiful here before… Children were playing in the streets,” San Jose said, adding: “Now we always need to use a boat.”

Most of the former residents have scattered to other parts of the region. Just a handful of families remain in Pariahan, which had its own elementary school, a basketball court and a chapel before the water flowed in.

These days just the flooded chapel, a cluster of shacks on bamboo stilts where San Jose lives with her family, and a few homes on a bump of land remain.

The children that live there commute 20 minutes by boat to a school inland and most of the residents eke out a living by fishing.

The provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan – where Pariahan is located – have sunk between four and six centimetres (1.5-2.4 inches) annually since 2003, according to satellite monitoring.

“It’s really a disaster that is already happening… It’s a slow-onset disaster,” explained Narod Eco, who is part of a group of scientists tracking the problem.

Threat to lives

By comparison, the UN estimates average sea level rise globally is about three millimetres per year.

The creeping bay waters put people and property at risk, while the threat is amplified by high-tides and flooding brought by the roughly 20 storms that pound the archipelago every year.

Some areas have raised roads in an effort to keep up with the sinking, creating odd scenes where the street surface is at the height of door knobs on roadside buildings.

At least 5000 people have been forced out of the mostly rural coastal areas north of Manila in recent decades as the bay water has moved further inland, regional disaster officials told AFP.

The sinking is very likely permanent because the ground in the hardest hit areas is mostly clay, which sticks together after the water is pulled out.

The fate of towns such as Pariahan provides a preview of the problems that may await some of the capital’s 13 million people.

Sections of Manila along the shore of the bay are sinking too, with excess groundwater pumping being the most likely cause, Eco, the researcher, told AFP. The subsidence there though is at a slower rate than the northern coastal communities, potentially due to less pumping or differences in the soil, he added.

A moratorium on new wells in the greater Manila area has been in place since 2004. But enforcing that ban as well as shuttering existing illegal wells, falls to the National Water Resource Board and its roughly 100 staffers who are responsible for policing the whole country.

“We have insufficient manpower resources,” the board’s director Sevillo David told AFP. “It’s a very big challenge for us, but I think we are doing the best we can.”

Things will get worse

The demand for water has soared as Manila’s population has nearly doubled since 1985, and the size of the nation’s economy has expanded roughly ten-fold over the same period.

This explosive growth has created a ravenous demand for water, especially in the agriculture and manufacturing industries to the north of the capital.

“The sinking is a very serious threat to people, their livelihoods and cultures,” said Joseph Estadilla, a spokesman for alliance seeking to protect Manila Bay coastal communities.

“This is only going to get worse in the near future,” he insisted.

Manila and its surroundings are among several major cities, especially in Asia, under threat as the land collapses beneath them, though the causes for this vary.

Cities such as Jakarta — which is sinking 25 centimetres (0.8 feet) each year – Bangkok and Shanghai risk being inundated within decades as a mixture of poor planning, more violent storms and higher tides wreak havoc.

In Jakarta, a city of 10 million people that sits on a confluence of 13 rivers, half the population lacks access to piped water, so many dig illegal wells to extract groundwater.

Yet in Pariahan the residents who remain are doing what they can to stay in a place they call home.

San Jose explained: “Every year we raise (the floor) of our house. Now my head almost reaches the ceiling.”

Muzi Sikhakhane
Zuma’s legal team to release evidence seeking to ‘trap’ him
20 May 2019, 12:45 PM

Former President Jacob Zuma‘s lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane has told the Pietermaritzburg High Court that he will reveal details from the spy tapes about individuals wanting to trap his client.

Zuma and French Arms company Thales are facing corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges relating to the multi-billion Rand arms deal.

Delivering his argument for a permanent stay of prosecution, Sikhakhane says Zuma’s legal team has been accused by the media of delaying tactics.

“I’m going to try and persuade everyone who has hated this man without thinking once about him. We have not come here to do what our learned friends and people in the media call it. They say we are adopting a stalingrad approach, that we are here to delay because that’s what Zuma does. I promise you, I’m going to read to you a discussion between a prosecutor and an outsider seeking to trap Mr Zuma.”

Watch for more:

Jacob Zuma supporters
Zuma march gets underway
20 May 2019, 12:00 PM

Hundreds of African National Congress supporters are taking part in a march in Pietermaritzburg in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands in support of former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma who faces 16 charges of corruption, racketeering and fraud is appearing in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. He is applying for a permanent stay of prosecution with a new legal team led by Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane.

Traffic has come to a standstill as ANC supporters dressed in the party’s regalia take to the streets of Pietermaritzburg.

They are singing struggle songs admiring Zuma’s role in politics. They are also carrying placards written “father of free education” and “we are tired of politics of the stomach”.

Religious leaders have also shown their support for Zuma.

Various roads leading to court have been closed to traffic.

Andile Mngxitama
Mngxitama in court to support Zuma
20 May 2019, 10:47 AM

Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama has vowed to continue showing his support for former President Jacob Zuma.

Mngxitama was speaking outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court ahead of Zuma’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Zuma faces 16 charges of corruption, racketeering and fraud.  Mgxitama says the charges levelled against Zuma are a political attack as Zuma stands for radical economic transformation.

“Nine years later Zuma’s cases are showing up. This is a political attack, we know why, he is for radical transformation. Sadly his party, the ANC, is the one that is teaching him this lesson. We stand with him for that reason. We know after Zuma, it’s us, Brian Molefe, it’s Dudu Myeni.  Any Black person who stands for radical transformation is going to be criminalised by this regime of Ramaphosa.”

The Zuma court case which has been set down for the whole week in the Pietermaritzburg High Court is expected to draw support from thousands of South Africans who have travelled from other provinces.

Organiser of support for Zuma, Nkosentsha Shezi, says people have come in from around the country to show solidarity with the former President.

“Whenever we draw support and organise support for Mr Zuma, it’s people around the country who drive through the provinces of South Africa to come and show their support to President Zuma. We are really standing here in solidarity and in support of the father of RET, and land expropriation without compensation, President Jacob Zuma. We are looking at today as the big day, main day where large support will be coming.”

Muzi Sikhakhane
Sikhakhane leads Zuma’s legal team
20 May 2019, 10:20 AM

Former President Jacob Zuma‘s legal team is on Monday being led by Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane.

The Pietermaritzburg High Court will hear Zuma’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution in the corruption case against him, which relates to the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal.

He is facing 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

The SABC also understands that for the State it will be Advocate Andrew Breitenbach together with Advocate Wim Trentgrove representing the French arms company Thales would be Advocate Anton Kat.

The court will finally hear the arguments and the reasons why Zuma wants this case to be dismissed.

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