Robredo: 'Insensitive' to beautify Manila Bay during pandemic

Vice President Leni Robredo joined critics voicing dismay over the beautification of Manila Bay in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the reported plan to simulate a "white sand beach" in this tourist site has fueled criticism online.

In her weekly radio show with co-host Ely Saludar on Sunday, September 6, Robredo noted that while the government's plans for Manila Bay have been there since 2019, she said it's ill-timed to push through with it while the coronavirus is still affecting the country.

"Parang napaka-insensitive na gagawin mo iyan sa height ng pandemic, na ang daming nagugutom. Ang daming naghihirap, gagawin mo iyong pag-beautify," said the Vice President. (For me, it so insensitive that you would do that at the height of the pandemic, when many people are hungry. Many are suffering, yet you'd do this beautification.)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) explained that the project is part of the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay waterfront. It also said the "white sand" poured there, as widely reported, was actually crushed dolomite boulders from Cebu.

Multiple groups raised environmental concerns on the use of synthetic white sand, while netizens questioned the timing of the project.

Robredo pointed out that the government has been "sending the wrong message" when it had said there are "no funds left" to assist families, frontliners, and vulnerable sectors, yet the Manila Bay rehabilitation is proceeding.

"Kahit nga si Presidente, Ka Ely, naririnig natin every press conference, sinasabi niya walang pera. So nakakainsulto kapag nakikita ng tao iyong ganitong mga programa, na para bang... parang hindi sensitive sa kahirapan," she added.

(Even the President, Ely, we hear him every press conference that we have no more money. So it's insulting when you see these kinds of programs that seem to be insensitive with the poor's plight.)

"Ano ba naman iyong i-assess natin iyong mga dati nating mga programa, na baka naman puwedeng gamitin muna iyong mga pera sa mas kailangan, kaysa unahin iyong hindi kailangan," Robredo continued.

(What's wrong with assessing our past programs, then maybe use the funds for those to the ones that are really needed [during this crisis], instead of prioritizing those that aren't needed?)

Robredo also chided Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who said on Saturday, September 6, that the project would help improve the public's mental heath.

"Sinusubukan na natin ngayong bumalik [sa normal], pero iyong takot nandiyan pa, kasi ang taas pa ng cases. Kung gusto nating... makatulong sa mental health ng mga tao, ayusin natin iyong trabaho natin. Iyon iyong pinakatulong – hindi iyong pag-beautify ng Manila Bay," she said.

(We're now trying to go back to normal, but fears and concerns are still there, because the number of cases is still high. If we want to help improve the people's mental health, let's do our jobs right. That's the real help, not beautifying Manila Bay.)

She then hoped that the government would show that public funds are being used properly during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Nakikita ng tao, naglalagay doon ng palamuti.... Anong koneksyon nito sa pandemya?" she asked. (The people are seeing adornments in Manila Bay. What does it have to do with the pandemic?) –