Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has filed a resolution seeking a Senate investigation into the P389-million Manila Bay “white sand” project.
In filing Senate Resolution No. 532, De Lima said in a statement on Saturday, October 3, that the substantial amount spent on the beautification project could have been used to feed 5.2 million poor families affected by pandemic, or for public healthcare.
“The makeover of Manila Bay shows that this administration’s priorities lean towards cosmetic beautification rather than health, economic aid, or education. Now is the opportune time to conduct this investigation as we are nearing fiscal year 2021 deliberations in Congress,” De Lima said.
She shared the concern of environmental advocates that the project will cause “more harm than good.”
Crushed dolomite was used for the artificial beach. Dolomite dust can cause health hazards, though the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) maintained that dolomite, in the form used in Manila Bay, is not harmful to one’s health.
Later, however, the DENR suspended the permit of a dolomite mine in Cebu – the supplier of the Manila Bay artificial sand – because of marine damage caused by the mine operations.
De Lima also cited the warning of environmental advocacy group Oceana Philippines that the project may harm the ecosystem and coastal integrity of Manila Bay, as the white sand “does not appear to be a natural substrate of that portion of the bay.”
“Aside from affecting the ecosystem of the bay, the dolomite sand can also damage the other features of the bay like the mangroves, beaches, and mudflats where shellfish, crabs, and fish nurseries thrive,” De Lima said.
De Lima reminded the DENR of its primary mandate to “conserve, manage, develop, and properly use the country’s environment and natural resources for the welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos.”
“Only in this administration has Imeldific beautification projects once again trumped informed decision-making of supposedly professional organizations like the DENR. Nakakapanghinayang ang mga taon na ginugol ng mga nakaraang administrasyon para sa pagpapadalubhasa sa mga kawani ng DENR kung gagawin lamang silang ‘window-dressers’ o taga-palamuti,” she said in a statement.
(Past administrations spent years turning DENR personnel into experts and it’s regrettable to see this [training] go to waste if they’re only tasked to become “window-dressers” or decorators.)
“Officials of DENR must be held accountable for non-compliance with several laws like the Local Government Code, the Philippine Fisheries Code, the Wildlife Conservation Act, and PD 1586 or the Environmental Impact Assessment System, among others, in implementing this project,” she added.
The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives had earlier filed a resolution seeking a congressional inquiry into the Manila Bay project.
On September 24, Akbayan filed a petition before the Supreme Court to cite DENR for contempt for alleged violation of the 2008 writ of Continuing Mandamus to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay. The party list group said in its petition that the dumping of crushed dolomite on the foreshore areas of Manila Bay contravened the Court order.– Rappler.com