DENR: Manila Bay ‘beach nourishment’ not part of NEDA’s master plan

DENR: Manila Bay �beach nourishment� not part of NEDA�s master plan
Piles of artificial white sand made from dolomite are seen along the shore of Manila Bay on September 6, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources admitted that its project to build an artificial “white sand” beach on the shore of Manila Bay was nowhere to be found in the master plan of the National Economic and Development Authority.

DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the “beach nourishment” project was not part of the state planning agency’s Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan.

“Tama po kayo wala sa long-term plan. Di makikita literally or spelling out in the NEDA master plan but in our desire, interest to fast track, comply with the Supreme Court order, ito ginagawa natin ngayon sa Manila Bay,” Leones said, responding to the query of Rep. Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa City) during the department’s budget deliberations at the House of Representatives Tuesday.

(You are right that it’s not in the long-term plan. It is not seen literally or spelled out in the NEDA master plan but in our desire, interest to fast track, comply with the Supreme Court order, this is what we’re doing to Manila Bay.)

The DENR official said the agency had to expedite projects for Manila Bay when President Rodrigo Duterte issued Administrative Order 16, which ordered the rehabilitation of the coastal and marine ecosystem in of the bay, in February 2019. The rehabilitation of Manila Bay began in January last year.

“Kung ipa-pattern natin strictly sa NEDA planning, medyo matatagalan ‘yung ating activities,” he added.

(If we pattern it strictly with NEDA planning, it will take time.)

Leones said the “beach nourishment” are among the department's short-term activities “which we believe will support the NEDA plan in the long-term.”

Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan

NEDA is the agency tasked to formulate policies, plans and programs of the government and to review, evaluate and monitor infrastructure projects.

The agency's master plan, which is intended to be conducted within a 22-year period that will end in 2040, includes five focal themes:

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

“Ultimately MBSDMP will contribute to an equitable improvement in the quality of life in the Manila Bay areas where communities have access to safe, affordable and formal housing as well as access to basic services and economic opportunities,” the January 2020 version of the MBSDMP final master plan report read.

The formulation of the MBSDMP commenced on January 10, 2018. It was expected to be completed by July 2020. 

Environment officials said the “beach nourishment” project was part of the bay’s rehabilitation program as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2008. Government agencies began filling a portion of Manila Bay with artificial white sand made from dolomite.

When it launched the program in 2019, the DENR said the project will be done in three phases:

Phase 1 - Cleanup or 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 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 National Capital Region
  • Relocation of informal settlers
  • Ensure completion of 340 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 or earlier completion of the sewerage system in Metro Manila from 2037 to 2026

House probe

The lower chamber’s Makabayan bloc filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the controversial “white sand” project following massive backlash from the public.

The Makabayan lawmakers cited the concerns of several groups and members of the academe over the project.

Groups who have long been calling for a genuine rehabilitation of the bay said the “ill-conceived” project failed to comply with national laws and could potentially harm not only the bay’s marine ecosystem but also communities in and around the area. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 8, 2023 - 12:00pm

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources orders the closure of Aristocrat restaurant in Roxas Boulevard for "generating and discharging pollutive wastewater" amid the government's move to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

The Manila Bay rehabilitation program involves cleanup activities, relocation of illegal settlers as well as apprehension of establishments that violate the Philippine Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. 

Last January 22, the Manila City government has ordered the temporary closure of Manila Zoo to allow the reconstruction of its sewer lines. The zoo is located near Estero de San Antonio Abad in Malate, Manila, which directly drains into the Manila Bay.

DENR ordered establishments around the bay to put up their own sewage treatment plants last January 11.

October 8, 2023 - 12:00pm

Fishers' group PAMALAKAYA reports that fishers witnessed a dredging vessel closely passing by their fishing boat off Cavite last night, October 7.

The continued dredging or reclamation off Manila Bay comes two months after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced the suspension of reclamation in Manila Bay.

In its report, the group says the dredging vessel is involved in seabed quarrying in Cavite to fulfill several dump-and-fill projects in Manila Bay, particularly for the airport reclamation project in Bulacan. 

It condemns the act saying it is "a proof that Marcos Jr's suspension order on reclamation is a sham, especially with the absence of an official Executive Order." — Rosette Adel

May 16, 2022 - 8:58am

The Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach will be reopened to the public on May 20, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources announces.

June 7, 2021 - 2:18pm

A fishers' group slams the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for issuing an environmental compliance certificate to a reclamation project in Bulacan.

The DENR has granted San Miguel Corp. a permit for its P700-billion aerotropolis project that would cover over 2,500 hectares of Manila Bay.

Pamalakaya says the aerotropolis project is "on the opposite track" of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program.

“Reclamation defeats the purpose of rehabilitation as it endangers vital marine resources that keep Manila Bay abundant and biodiverse," Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap says.

November 20, 2020 - 1:03pm

Akbayan is calling on the original parties in the 2008 environmental protection case over Manila Bay to join them in questioning the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources' dolomite beach project.

The party does this in a statement after the Supreme Court denied its motion to intervene in the case, adding the court "has taken, quite sadly, a hands-off approach on an issue of transcendental importance."

It adds: "Even the high tribunal's statement that it found no violation of its continuing Mandamus is discouraging. It limited its findings to the reports submitted by the DENR on its specific directive to clean the waters of the bay and perform maintenance measures." 

"It failed to include in its assessment the DENR's dumping of fake sand as a polluting act violative of its order."

October 30, 2020 - 1:18pm

Akbayan party-list will hold a "bicycle action" on November 3 "coinciding with the Supreme Court's en banc session to deliberate on the petition Akbayan filed on the dumping of dolomite sand along Manila Bay."

Bikers will meet at Plaza Salamanca in the morning and head to the Supreme Court gates in Padre Faura.

In its announcement, Akbayan says it is calling for the SC to "hold the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in contempt for dumping fake white sand in Manila Bay, which is in violation of the court's continuing Mandamus on the area, as well to save Manila Bay the right way." 

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