Manila Bay “Beach Nourishment” Project: The White Sand Controversy
Manila Bay (The Bay) is somewhat close to her! Yup, she and The Bay have seen each other for many years and almost every day, from sunrise to sunset, at times from dusk to dawn if and when needed at work! The place where she frequently went had a perfect bay view where the yachts of the affluent members of society are being docked. She was fortunate enough to be given a space overlooking The Bay with 180 degree perfect view of the outside of the glass windows with the glorious sunset coupled with varied color hues painted in the sky. At that time, she was insensitive to nature’s beauty, she simply had no luxury of admiring the sunset which has always been there, an eye shot from where she was! That’s why she had not taken great photos of it (for mementos’ sake) plus the sad fact that at that time she was not really interested in documenting what she saw, regrettably. She was merely too focused with what she was doing. Or perhaps, The Bay and her were just too familiar with each other that they failed to notice and value one another (lol)! But definitely she acknowledged the privilege and is grateful for the added bonus given her, to be able to relish The Bay sunset’s beauty and radiance everyday!
As far as her institutional memory is concerned, there had been a couple of beautification projects undertaken at The Bay by previous Government administrations, both from local and national levels. At first, it was exciting to see and bask at the new look of The Bay. Unfortunately, as months and years passed, the facelift went awry, it started to sag and went back to its old self: filth, smelly, polluted, etc.. The entertainment at night and additional business structures paved the way for some very creative entrepreneurs to undertake certain illegal/illicit activities (e.g. drinking spree in the area, issues about sex related and prostitution activities, etc.). Thus, the said entertainment related events were stopped and its facilities were dismantled. Also, every time monsoon rain and typhoon season comes, the waves filled with tons of garbage mostly plastics of any kind are crashing over the shoreline, flooding the street and litter sprawling along the scenic Boulevard. In short, there was a failure on the side of previous Governments to monitor and implement policies and guidelines relative to cleanliness and maintenance of the area.
Current Issue (During Pandemic):
The artificial “white sand” (which looks like golden..ish) that is being used to overlay a portion of The Bay’s shores has been extracted from a “Dolomite” boulder from Cebu. Those who are against it call for a freeze of the white sand fill for some reasons, as follows: 1. That the Dolomite sand is hazardous to people’s health; 2) That the budget for the sand filling should have been used for pandemic related expenses, that it is ill timed and insensitive to the current situation (One Bishop even mentioned that “there are many incorrect things with this project, foremost is that it is not attuned with the current predicament of our nation”; 3) That the white sand will be put to waste as it may just be washed away during rainy days; and 4) That the white sand is completely superficial and for aesthetic purposes only. As one former government official puts it: It’s an “Imeldific delusion”.
Briefly, the Supreme Court (SC) in 2008 ordered certain government agencies to undertake a speedy cleanup, restoration, and preservation of Manila Bay. The said order was made after a case re. The Bay’s degradation was filed in 1999 by Concerned Residents of The Bay against several government agencies for the cleanup, rehabilitation, and protection of the The Bay. The said group viewed that “the water quality of the Manila Bay had fallen way below the allowable standards set by law, specifically Presidential Decree No. 1152 or the Philippine Environment Code.”
Come Duterte administration in 2016 (pre-pandemic). Realizing that its order in 2008 had not been complied and implemented by concerned government agencies, the SC on Dec. 18, 2016 issued a Mandamus on Manila Bay (G.R. 171947-48) directing said agencies previously tasked to speed up the clean up, rehabilitation, and preservation of Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters to a level suitable for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.
As to the compliance/implementation and non-compliance/non-implementation of the said SC order by previous administrations, there were no reports made publicly on the subject. (In case you’re aware of any initiatives undertaken which have/have not been press released, feel free to shoot My Useful Tips an email specified in the contact page of its website so an erratum can be made)
In response to SC’s order, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu officially launched the Manila Rehabilitation at the Baywalk in Manila on January 27, 2019. The rehabilitation of The Bay has been going on and is considered another priority project of DENR after the successful rehabilitation of Boracay Resort. Based on accounts and per DENR, the “beach nourishment” project is part of the bay’s rehabilitation program as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2008 and it has started last year before the pandemic. DENR, however, clarified that the said white sand filling is not specifically indicated in the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan, but as an adjunct strategy adopted by DENR to improve and beautify the place.
DENR has started the preparation for the filling in of the white (golden…ish) sand in a small portion of The Bay during the start of the year and it’s still in progress as of to date. Some people may have noticed the white sand being placed along the shores of The Bay and how it changes/improves The Bay’s facade. This elicited positive and negative comments from all sectors of society: from the anti and pro Duterte camps, from environmentalists, politicians, activists, ordinary citizens and social media addicts, all exercising their right of free speech, voicing out their views on the matter.
Total cost of the rehabilitation project is P389 million. But the white sand filling, as per accounts, entails only a small fraction of the total cost. Nearly a half of it is accounted for by labor-related expenses.
MUTC Thoughts and Comments:
- While some of the complaints/issues ((hazardous to health, ill-timed, waste of money as sand will just be washed away during heavy rains and tropical storms, insensitive Government, etc.) raised by those against the sand-fill are valid and laudable, their protests and allegations however only came out “after the fact”, when the transfer of the sand-fill has already been completed and is now on site and being implemented. The Department of Health (DOH) has already clarified that dolomite in its bulk state is not a known health hazard and dolomite in dust form, like any dust particle, can lead to symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and coughing for this is our body’s normal reaction to irritants”.
DENR assured the public that they have conducted “due diligence” on this with a feasibility/technical study, taking into account some of the issues raised. The complainants’ recourse for now is to go to court to file for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to put a stop on this matter, if they still don’t trust the Government.
- The beach nourishment project, of which the sand fill is a part of it, was undertaken before the outbreak of COVID-19 virus pandemic. It is presumed that implementation plans have been laid out, raw materials have already been purchased and are on site and contractors and laborers have already been tapped to do the work and are in place. Thus, changing horses in midstream, so to speak, may no longer be prudent at this point in time. It would entail additional cost for Govt. to change everything. (Note though that if in the event the beach nourishment project was truly implemented only couple of months ago when everyone was suffering, stressed and depressed on how to cope (financially and emotionally) because of this pandemic, then perhaps DENR could have reassessed the situation and made appropriate recommendations on the matter.)
- Funds for the rehabilitation/beach nourishment project for The Bay may not be available for use for other purposes as it has already been allocated for such. Under the Bayanihan Law, Government has already realigned and allotted billions of funds and is continuing to provide and help curb the spread of the virus and those in dire need. In fact, the budget for other agencies have been reduced so as to accommodate funds meant for the pandemic. Based on accounts, the total cost for the sand-fill only amounts to about P50M more or less (needs to verify fig..).
- There are also advantages in pursuing the clean up, improving and putting some enhancements along The Bay, one of which is employment generation during the pandemic. Those employed will be able to feed their families from the salaries they get from their jobs, making them and their families more at peace and secured for the time being. Once it is completed, the Manila residents, tourists and visitors will experience a fresh start with the Manila Bay becoming an environmentally sound, clean and beautiful! And by tourists, hopefully with pandemic no longer around, The Bay will be a possible source of revenue not only for the concerned local Government but the hotels and businesses along the Boulevard as well, helping boost the country’s economy.
So guys, who doesn’t want to see a safer, cleaner and a more beautiful environment like the Manila Bay with its scenic skyline and the most beautiful sunset in the world?! Let’s not dwell much on this white sand thing (it’s not even that white)! Some of us are growing white hairs and beards during this pandemic, we have so much of these already!!!
Oh by the way, she used to be a Manileña for a decade (Mayor Isko Moreno for info!), before staying with her bff in the city of now known as the hub of info tech and the city of his uni dorm, hence this blog!
Your comments would be welcomed and appreciated! Thanks for your time to read! Peace yow!
(cttos for the featuredphotos)