Filipinos have been loudly criticizing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for dumping “white sand” on Manila Bay’s shoreline yesterday as part of a program to rehabilitate the notoriously polluted body of water in Pasay City.
“Why are they putting purely aesthetic program first in the rehabilitation of Manila Bay? Who is this program for? Does the DENR not know that they are destroying the coasts?” marine conversation group Oceana Philippines said yesterday in a statement.
Fernando Hicap, chairman of fishers group PAMALAKAYA, hit the DENR in another statement saying that because it did not have any concrete plans to fix the Bay, it resorted to “external beautification,” which was “completely absurd.”
“Why invest in white sand when you can plant mangrove forests and seagrasses that would restore and balance its marine ecosystem?” Hicap asked.
The “white sand” is made of crushed dolomite rocks that were transported from Cebu, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda explained yesterday in an interview. The government intends to fill 500 meters of the Bay’s naturally gray shoreline as part of a rehabilitation program that started in January 2017. The project costs at least PHP397 million (US$8 million), according to the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Antiporda said they were inspired by the white sand beaches of Boracay and Palawan and that it was done for people who could not afford to go to those tourist spots. He admitted in an interview with cable channel ANC that he was unaware of the amount of money used for the synthetic sand and that it was impossible to divert the funds to aid Filipinos during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is not a new project. We cannot connect this with the pandemic…maybe if this was just cash that we could juggle from one place to another, the government could do that. But this is not possible. That is prohibited,” Antiporda said in English and Filipino.
Meanwhile, online criticisms continue to pour in. Former congressman Teddy Casiño tweeted, “Seriously? Dumping white sand along the shore of Manila Bay to make it swimmable? And I thought nothing could be more stupid than Angkas barriers.”
Casiño was referring to the plastic motorcycle shields that the government required couples to wear while riding pillion, only to nix it after weeks of protests.
Seriously? Dumping white sand along the shore of Manila Bay to make it swimmable? And I thought nothing could be more stupid than angkas barriers.
— Teddy Casiño (@teddycasino) September 3, 2020
An equally frustrated @macoyestrella wrote a checklist of what the government chose to prioritize instead of a “concrete [C]ovid plan” and schemes to “stimulate and recover [our] economy.”
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