A scheme to revitalize Manila Bay has come under fire. (Photo: Trendingpod)
Citizen and church groups have criticized the Philippine government’s efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay by putting synthetic white sand along its shores, saying it endangers public health and marine life.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the government had decided to make an artificial beach by allotting 389 million pesos (US$7.78 million) from public funds.
It said the project was part of rehabilitation efforts called “Battle for Manila Bay” that kicked off in January 2019 aiming to bring the polluted bay back to life.
“This is one battle that we will win not with force or arms but with the firm resolve to bring Manila Bay back to life. With the commitment and determination of every Filipino to do his share in this rehabilitation effort, we have already won the battle for Manila Bay,” the DENR stated on its website.
Environmental group EcoWaste Coalition, however, has demanded full disclosure before dumping artificial white sand beach along the bay.
“The government should make public all information on the steps they had taken that led to the decision to spend 389 million pesos of taxpayers’ money for this expensive project,” said the group in a statement.
EcoWaste also said that dolomite, a type of calcium magnesium mineral used to create artificial white sand, was dangerous and could cause respiratory diseases.
“As the public has the right to know, we urge the DENR to post on their website all pertinent documents that will provide environmental, health, legal and financial justification for pursuing this beautification project,” said spokesperson Aileen Lucero.
Lucero said government agencies must also show that they did not violate a court order that halted any development in the area.
“The agencies should have considered potential harm to the marine and coastal ecosystems and human health, and how much [taxpayer] money will be required for the continuing monitoring, maintenance and replenishment of the white sand beach, which could be used for truly rehabilitating Manila Bay and supporting the poor who depend on it for livelihoods,” said Lucero.
Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that the money could have been better spent to help the poor being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the government should have exercised prudence before “massively spending” on a beautification project.
“The Manila Bay project is ill-timed given the pandemic. The poor are the victims of this pandemic. They say we do not have money anymore. But how come they have allotted these hundreds of millions for a beautification project?” Bishop Pabillo asked in a radio interview.
“During these times, where many are without jobs and have no food to eat, this project amounting to over 300 million pesos just for white sand appears to be ill-timed.”
The prelate also agreed with environmentalists who fear the sand could be swept away during typhoons.
“The shores of Manila Bay may be beautiful, but we are not even sure if this white sand will be able to stay since tons of trash fill up Manila Bay whenever there are typhoons,” Bishop Pabillo said.