Department of the Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año on Saturday debunked claims by critics of the Manila Bay "white sand" project could destroy the bay's environment and poses health hazards to people.
Contrary to critics' claims, Año said in a statement that crushed dolomite is a common material used in beach nourishment in many parts of the country and the world.
Año, who is vice chairman of the Manila Bay Task Force, moreover said "the Department of Health (DOH) has already clearly stated that the dolomite used in Baywalk is bigger than dust, which doesn’t get suspended in air, and therefore is not harmful to people."
His remarks came on the heels of criticisms directed at the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources' project of placing crushed dolomite to beautify and rehabilitate a stretch of Manila Bay’s shoreline, close to the Baywalk strip along Roxas Boulevard.
According to the DOH only dolomite in dust form can be an irritant and that the size of the dolomite sands in the Manila Bay project is 2 mm to 5mm which is 100 x bigger than dust. It also stated that dolomite in its bulk state is not a known health hazard.
On the other hand, DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya clarified that only P28 million of the P389 million allocation for Manila Bay's rehabilitation and cleanup project was used for the crushed dolomite rocks.
"That [P28M] already covers the price of dolomite sand, transportation cost, taxes, and other fees. That’s the package of the cost including delivery from Cebu to Manila Bay. It’s not 389 million but 28 million," he pointed out.
Earlier, the DENR said the source of the funding was a special purpose fund under the 2019 General Appropriations Act intended for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
Further, Malaya said, “The project was approved by Congress under the 2019 General Appropriations Act, it underwent competitive bidding under RA 9184 and was awarded prior to the global pandemic. The government cannot simply stop a project when it is already under contractual obligation to proceed."
Aside from environmental and health concerns over the crushed dolomite, critics also pointed out that the multi-million-peso Manila Bay beautification project was insensitive to the plight of millions of poor, jobless, and hungry Filipinos hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some critics also raised the issue that the white sand project was ill-timed as the country is still facing a health crisis and its effects on the economy.
Malaya clarified that the amount allocated by Congress for this project did not take away any funds intended the COVID-19 response of the national government.
“This was sourced from the 2019 GAA, the funds for COVID are in the 2020 GAA, Bayanihan I and now Bayanihan II; hence, this project has no effect whatsoever on government’s COVID response,” he said.
“We urge the critics to study the issue first before they make baseless allegations against worthwhile government projects. We welcome any investigation into this project whether in the courts of justice or in the court of public opinion. All this criticism is misplaced,” he said.
“All of the agencies and organizations who are part of this endeavor have the necessary experience and technical expertise on the matter. We finally have this opportunity to improve Manila Bay for future generations. Let us not squander this opportunity. This is long overdue. We can win the battle of Manila Bay if we stay the course and get things done,” he added. —LBG, GMA News