Manila Bay’s ‘white beach’

Manila Bay’s ‘white beach’"This project is a waste of public funds."



The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) insistence that it is correct in putting dolomite “white sand” along a part of Manila Bay, is puzzling to say the least. I thought that like many other issues, this would die a natural death after a week or so of receiving criticism from people.

This dolomite “beach” is part of DENR’s Manila Bay rehabilitation project. With a budget of P359 million sourced from the contingency fund of President Rodrigo Duterte, the department intends to cover some 500 meters of Manila Bay shoreline with crushed dolomite from Cebu. As of now, only 120 meters have been covered.

Recent typhoons and heavy rains that hit Manila have shown how wrong the DENR is in embarking on this project. The white dolomite “sand” has been repeatedly washed out and DENR needed to “restore” the area every time. But DENR has a different version, saying that the dolomite is not being washed out. Instead, black sand was being washed in, resulting in the white artificial sand being covered.

Washed out or washed in, the thing is, scientists have said that when nourishing a beach, the material that should be used is one similar to what is already there. Manila Bay’s shoreline is naturally gray, and definitely, its sand is NOT dolomite. Moreover, one international expert said that dolomite is used for construction of roads and not one of the world’s artificial beaches is made of dolomite. Apparently, the project did not undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to determine if what will be done will be good or bad for the environment.

In fact, the DENR issued Administrative Order No. 2003-30 on the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) System. This AO requires that projects that pose potential significant impact to the environment need to secure Environment Clearance Certificates (ECC) before they can be implemented to make sure that the environment is protected. Apparently from the get-go, the DENR did not consider the “dolomite project” as potentially harmful since reports say that no EIA was done.

Besides the harm to environment, in a statement, scientists from the University of the Philippines (UP) have raised concerns about the high project costs since this will require continuously replacing the sand with crushed dolomite. “The addition of dolomites … cannot serve to anchor the loss of beach sand, nor serve as replacement for eroded sediments… Beach nourishment projects are not one-shot deals, especially for continuously eroding shorelines,” the statement said.

Simply put, if DENR does not stop now, government will need to spend for more and more dolomite in the future to replace the ones that are washed out. And even with such expenditures, we cannot expect Manila Bay to be rehabilitated.

The health hazards of dolomite have been underscored. The Department of Health (DOH) initially said that dolomite dust can cause respiratory problems. The UP Marine Science Institute warned that prolonged inhalation of dolomite dust particles could cause chronic health effects, chest discomfort, shortness of breath and coughing. Should this artificial beach be opened to the public as initially planned, we can only imagine the health problems that people who will frequent the place may experience.

The DENR and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque defended the project by saying that the project will bring the “white beach” to people who cannot afford to go to the real thing like Boracay. Also, Roque claimed that this will be good for the mental health of people in this time of pandemic. Evidently, our government officials are not mindful of the actual health hazards of dolomite.

Instead of listening to people, especially environmentalists and scientists, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said that the project will continue and more crushed dolomite will be used to cover the planned 500 meters of Manila Bay’s shoreline. There is no information on where the dolomite is coming from since the Cebu provincial government has issued a cease-and-desist order for the unauthorized extraction of dolomite rocks.

Additionally, the DENR also said that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will construct a breakwater as additional protection so the dolomite will stay intact. It is unclear if the budget that will be used for a breakwater of 500 meters in length (following the DENR plan) is included in the original P359 million, or if this will be sourced from DPWH budget. In this case, it should have been included in the General Appropriations Act of 2021. The cost of building the breakwater is also unknown as of this time.

An important point that needs to be raised is the fact that the “dolomite beach” is a beautification project and NOT something that will rehabilitate Manila Bay. As such, it should not have been under the Manila Bay rehabilitation program.

During this time when tens of millions of Filipino families are suffering due to worsening poverty, and a time when even Duterte has repeatedly said that the government no longer has money, this fake white beach project is a waste of public funds. This is something that we cannot afford.

Had the P359 million been used to help our impoverished people, almost 60,000 families or 300,00 individuals could have been helped at P6,000 per family. Then we can say that this is money well spent.

The DENR should now listen to the experts and stop this fake white beach project before things get worse.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: Department of Environment and Natural Resources , Manila Bay , Rodrigo Duterte , rehabilitation project
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