Artificial beach in Manila Bay not in NEDA's master plan, DENR admits

An official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) admitted that the controversial artificial beach currently being built in the Manila Baywalk is not found in the master plan of the state's planning agency.

"Kung ipa-pattern po natin strictly sa NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) planning, medyo matatagalan po ang ating activities," said DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones during the agency's budget deliberations at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 8.

(If we pattern the program strictly with NEDA, it will take time)

"Hindi po talaga magma-match 'yung master planning na ginawa ng NEDA at ginagawa sa DENR dahil ang ginagawa natin ngayon, beach nourishment," he added.

(The master planning of NEDA and what the DENR is currently doing won't match because what we are currently doing now is beach nourishment.)

NEDA is the country's planning agency that looks into the technical aspects of major projects, as well as their feasibility and sustainability.

Leones, who was being quizzed by Muntinlupa City Representative Ruffy Biazon, explained that the beach nourishment project was modeled after projects in the United States and Israel. 

In the same hearing, Leones said that the DENR expedited the projects for Manila Bay when President Rodrigo Duterte issued Administrative Order (AO) 16. He also noted NEDA was still crafting the master plan when Duterte's AO came out.

"These are short-term activities which we believe will support NEDA's plans in the long term," Leones said.

He added that dolomite sand will help bring down the acidity of the water.

The entire beach project costs P389 million, P28 million of which is for the dolomite sand. (READ: FAST FACTS: What is dolomite sand, and how will it affect Manila Bay?)

DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo said that the funds were sourced from the contingency fund of the Office of the President in 2019.

NEDA, DENR's plans

While Leones explained that the artificial beach project was spearheaded by the DENR and was not part of NEDA's master plan, it is important to note that creating the artificial beach was not mentioned by DENR before.

In January 2019, the DENR, without going into detail, said that the Manila Bay rehabilitation will be done in 3 phases: 

Phase 1: Cleanup/water quality improvement

  • Cleanup of designated esteros and waterways
  • Reduce fecal coliform level and toxic discharges from houses and establishments by causing connection to existing STPs (sewerage treatment plants) and requiring STPs for government, commercial, industrial, and educational establishments
  • Inspect and repair leaks in old sewer lines
  • Provide temporary sanitation facilities to informal settlers residing along esteros and shorelines pending relocation
  • Implement solid waste management
  • Start planning for the relocation of informal settlers

Phase 2: Rehabilitation and resettlement

  • Rehabilitation of old sewer lines in NCR (National Capital Region)
  • Relocation of informal settlers
  • Ensure completion of 340 MLD (million liters of water per day) of Maynilad and Manila Water by 2022

Phase 3: Education and sustainment

  • Continuing education of citizens to protect the gains
  • Sustained law enforcement and monitoring
  • Fast tracking/earlier completion of the sewerage system in Metro Manila from 2037 to 2026

Meanwhile, NEDA's master plan involves 5 focal themes:

  • Ecosystem protection
  • Improved water quality
  • Upgrading of informal settlements
  • Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation
  • Inclusive growth

NEDA's plan is intended to be conducted within a 22-year period that will end in 2040.  

"The Master Plan will be consistent with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), contribute to the achievement of the AmBisyon Natin 2040 vision, and support internationally agreed goals such as those contained in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," NEDA said. The master plan can be viewed here.

The PDP is the government's master plan, which is anchored on the 0-10 point Socioeconomic Agenda and is geared towards the Ambisyon Natin 2040 which articulates the Filipino people's collective vision. It also takes into account the country's international commitments such as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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