OCEAN CITY — Delegates from the Philippines are meeting with former Ambassador to Panama Bill Hughes to discuss beach replenishment in Cape May County shore towns and how the process might help in their home country.
The delegates of the Filipino Executive Council of Greater Philadelphia were on their fourth annual visit to Ocean City on Thursday. They were interested in knowing how Ocean City fared during Hurricane Sandy in October and in exploring potential lessons for the islands of the Philippines, which experience frequent storms.
A sister-city relationship was formed about four years ago between Ocean City and the community of San Jose Occidental Mindoro in the Philippines. Ocean City spokesman Mark Soifer said the relationship has had a visible effect on business in the area.
Hughes explained Thursday how he helped transform the process of seashore protection when he represented South Jersey in Congress in the early 1990s, at a time when beach replenishment wasn’t as popular or easily understood. As a congressman, Hughes worked to increase interest and awareness of the need for beach replenishment to protect shore towns, said Thursday.
Mayor Jay Gillian said the city was saved during Hurricane Sandy because of replenishment projects that Hughes implemented.
Mario De Leon, Consul General of the Philippines in New York, pointed out that the Philippines are typhoon-prone.
“We have some beautiful beaches and maybe a project like beach replenishment is what we need,” De Leon said. “I really see great value in this program.”
An important political aspect of beach preservation is the partnership between federal, state and local agencies to find matching funds in order to ensure the success of the 50-year project, Hughes said.
Gillian agreed that the three-way split, while still a considerable decision to make, supports a matter of public safety.
“We lost our beach but we could have lost a lot more if we hadn’t had the beach as a buffer,” Hughes said. “You have the same erosion problems (in the Philippines).”
Though the dredging for the ongoing project in Ocean City has been delayed by a few days due to mechanical problems with equipment, the timeline is still on track for the shore town be open by Memorial Day.
“On the way here I passed by Lower Manhattan, and it is still not ready,” De Leon said. “They really got hit hard, there was no power for one week. But some still don’t have power now, six months later.”
De Leon added he is glad that Ocean City is ready for the summer season.
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