Groups opposing ‘white sand’ project in Manila Bay to seek congressional intervention

Marje Pelayo   •   September 7, 2020   •   422

MANILA, Philippines — Several environmental groups opposing the dumping of white sand on a portion of Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard plan to elevate their concerns to the House of Representatives (HOR).

The “Beach Nourishment Project”, spearheaded by no less than the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, allows the filling of synthetic white sand made of crushed dolomite along the 500-meter stretch shoreline of Manila Bay. 

In a statement, the Mines and Sciences Bureau Region 7 confirmed that it permitted the transport of processed dolomite boulders from a mining site in Alcoy, Cebu to Manila.

But environment group Oceana Philippines vice president Atty. Gloria Ramos said that they are now conducting meetings with other environmental groups to be able to come up with a strong opposition to the project. 

The letter is expected to reach the offices of the DENR, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as well as the Senate and the HOR.

Ramos said they are determined to lay down their evidence that will strongly support their call for the stoppage of the project. 

The group said such a project is similar to reclamation and violates a number of laws.

The group expressed dismay over the conduct of the project as it will destroy the ecosystem of Manila Bay and will only damage marine life.

“We are extremely concerned and alarmed at this project they are taking,” Ramos said.

“This is also a violation of various environmental laws including the Fisheries Code as amended because Manila Bay is spawning area for sardines, mackerel and other fishes and it will definitely impact the waters,” she added.

Ramos also said that government officials involved in the project are at risk of removal from office particularly since the initiative allegedly did not undergo environmental impact study.

She said the government should have used the P400M fund to strengthen its coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response instead of wasting it on the project. 

But the DENR argued that the said project has been part of Manila Bay’s rehabilitation plan.

READ: ‘White sand’ project in Manila Bay will push through — DENR

Antiporda said the agency will be using modern equipment to make sure that the white sand will not be washed away by big waves. 

Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso, for his part, expressed full support for the project.

However, Domagoso stressed that he supports the project as long as it will not damage the environment. 

“With regard doon sa claim na iyong ilalagay na buhangin ay mapaminsala sa kapaligiran (with regard to the claim that the sand they are using could damage the environment), it is now up to me to identify scientifically na ito’y nakakasira ng kalikasan, (that this is indeed harmful to the environment),” Domagoso said. 

“I think DENR knows it better to protect our environment,” he added.

The official encourages the public to be vigilant in ensuring that the project will go as planned. 

Once completed, the public can expect a more stringent ordinance to take effect in one of the city’s famous landmarks, Domagoso said.

Apart from the white sand project, the city government ensures that a water treatment facility is always working to make sure that pollution level in Manila Bay remains low.

Totoong marumi ang Manila Bay kaya nga nagkaroon ng mandamus kasi napatunayan ng mga siyentipiko. Ngayon nagkakaroon ng pagsasaayos at paglilinis (Manila Bay’s water remains polluted that why a mandamus was created because scientists were able to confirm [its pollution level],” Domagoso said.

“We continue to support. We continue to do our part as a local government unit,” he added.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said that Manila Bay’s makeover could help boost the people’s mental health during the pandemic.

“I think iyong pagpapasyal sa mga lugar gaya ng Manila Bay na may white beach, di mo maka-quantify ang epekto niyan pagdating po sa mental health ng ating mga kababayan, yung kapayapaan ng pag-iisip at yung break from changes ng pandemic (I think walking along places like Manila Bay with white beach, you cannot quantify its effect on people’s mental health, peace of mind and break from the changes caused by the pandemic), explained Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“Right now, Manila Bay is known for its sunset, probably the best sunset in the world. With the white beach there, it is one of the most picturesque scenery in the whole world,” he concluded. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo / Rosalie Coz / Dante Amento)

Dolomite not washed out; black sand ‘washed in’ — DENR

Marje Pelayo   •   October 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu conducted a surprise inspection of the Manila Bay Beach Nourishment site on Wednesday (October 14).

Accompanied by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, Cimatu visited the site following reports that the artificial white sand in the area has been washed away after days of continuous rain.

Peralta himself requested for the visit as part of their mandate of ensuring that the said government project is properly progressing.

The DENR Chief stressed there was no washing off of the dolomite white sand in Manila Bay, contrary to reports circulating on social media.

The agency explained that the natural blank sand deposit in the area covered the white sand by one to three feet thick resulting in the sand turning black.

“Nakita po na puro kasinungalingan iyong lumabas na na-wash out po ang white sand natin (Reports that the white sand has been washed out are all lies),” DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said.

“Ang nangyari talaga is wash in. Ang nangyari po is pumasok iyong itim na buhangin at pumatong sa white dolomite (What really happened was a “wash in”. The black sand washed ashore and covered the white dolomite),” he added.

In September, President Rodrigo Duterte himself lauded the efforts of Cimatu in the full rehabilitation of Manila Bay. 

He expressed high confidence in Cimatu despite criticisms on the use of crushed dolomite boulders to cover the coastline of Manila Bay. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

Dolomite sand in Manila Bay not hazardous — DENR

Marje Pelayo   •   October 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) released on Thursday (October 1) the results of the analyses conducted on the dolomite sand samples from the Manila Bay Beach Nourishment Project.

The test was to determine whether they contain heavy metals that are harmful to health and marine life.

The analysis conducted include determination of Iron, Nickel, Lead, and Mercury; grain size; X-Ray diffraction; and pH and specific metals analysis using the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure.

The results of the analysis were compared to the limits set in DENR Administrative Order No. 2013-22, or the Revised Procedures and Standards for the Management of Hazardous Wastes.

“Basing from the results of the TCLP, none of the values obtained from the sample leachate exceeded the limits stated in the cited DENR AO, and hence the sample is not classified as hazardous,” said EMB OIC-Director Engr. William Cuñado.

“It does not contain mobile forms of the mentioned metal constituents that may leach into the environment under conditions similar to that in a landfill,” he added,

The official added that the pH value is also less than the set limit for pH in the provisions of the same Administrative Order to be classified as hazardous.

An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that water samples from Manila Bay had been tested and were found not hazardous.

Duterte commends Cimatu for Manila Bay white sand project

Marje Pelayo   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — In his public address Monday evening (September 21), President Rodrigo Duterte lauded the efforts of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu in the full rehabilitation of Manila Bay. 

The President expressed his high confidence in Cimatu despite criticisms on the use of crushed dolomite boulders to cover the coastline of Manila Bay and the timing of the project amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I think everybody was there when I said, ‘Roy, kaya mong linisin ‘to (can you clean this up)?’ And his answer was a very curtly given, ‘Kaya kong trabahuhin (I can work on it),'” the President recalled quoting Cimatu.

The President also noted that it is common for the opposition to criticize the government in all of its undertakings and specifically, the President himself.

Wala naman talaga tayong magawa (We really cannot do anything). You do it, may masabi sila (they have something to say). You do not do it, may masabi si Leni (Leni has something to say about it too),” he added, referring to Vice President Leni Robredo who is the leader of the opposition.

“They are trying to delude people.  They are trying to picture that there’s a failure of government. We have done our best,” Duterte stressed. 

He also said the opposition should not be adding to the already heavy burden of the country brought by the pandemic.

Robredo has questioned on multiple occasions, the government’s COVID-19 response and criticized its seeming lack of direction.

Alam mo Leni kung gusto mo (You know Leni, if you want), if you really want to do away with the COVID, i-sprayhan natin itong Pilipinas o Manila ng pesticide galing sa eroplano para patay lahat (let’s spray the whole Philippines or Manila with pesticide from a plane to kill them all) […] Do not add something to the pandemic by making such reckless statements na (that) we are not doing enough,” Duterte said addressing Robredo. MNP (wirh reports from Rosalie Coz)


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