Duterte praises DENR for controversial Manila Bay 'white sand' project
People visited the "white sand beach" along the Manila Baywalk on September 20, 2020. Despite attempts to manage the crowd, JTF COVID Shield noted quarantine protocol violations that it said area police should have planned for and managed better.
The STAR/Edd Gumban
Duterte praises DENR for controversial Manila Bay 'white sand' project
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - September 22, 2020 - 7:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — Despite concerns about the alleged health risks it poses and the timing of its implementation, the Manila Bay "white sand" project drew praises from President Rodrigo Duterte, who said that people are now enjoying the beautification project.

Duterte lauded Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for accepting the challenge of rehabilitating Manila Bay.

"Let us begin by congratulating Secretary Cimatu. You know I remember that meeting and I think everybody was there when I said, 'Roy, can you clean this up?' And his answer was...very curtly given, he said, 'I can work on this,'" the President said during his public address last Monday.

"Now, people now are really enjoying the reclaimed area with the white sand," he added.

Duterte said he was impressed by Cimatu when the environment chief accepted his dare.

"It was a very positive statement. It was not even a neutral thing or a thing that would border (on speculation). He did not say 'I can do it if.' He said 'I can do it.' And people are now enjoying the benefits of the determined action of a Cabinet member to do good," he added.

Duterte also thanked his other Cabinet members, saying he would have a hard time running the country without them.

"I'm not saying I have succeeded. That is for the people...to assess or give when I'm no longer the president," he said.

The Manila Bay area covers eight provinces and 178 local government units in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON. 

RELATED: Manila Bay 'white sand' critics to file writ of kalikasan vs dolomite dumping

Criticism of the project

The P389-million beautification project, which involves covering a 500-meter stretch of Manila Bay's shoreline with artificial white sand, has drawn flak due to the supposed health problems it may cause and its timing.

Critics of the project claim the funds for the project should have been used to strengthen the government's pandemic response and to assist the poor. Some groups also alleged that exposure to the white sand could harm the skin, lungs, and eyes.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque previously said the white sand project would help control flood and prevent soil erosion. He has also clarified that the project was conceptualized way before the spread of COVID-19.

Duterte chided critics of the controversial project, saying they would say something regardless of what the government does.

"What do you want us to do? The problem is some are saying we are not doing enough. What can we do with the germ that's flying around? It’s the microbe that can't be controlled. What will you do? Spray mo from the sky?" the president said.

"They are trying to delude people about — they are trying to picture that there is a failure of government. We have done our best. We have responded to the medical needs of the (people)," he added.

Roque also responded to criticisms that the extraction of dolomite rocks used in the Manila Bay project has damaged the marine ecosystem in Cebu.

"We have not verified that. The DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) will study that and we will check how to address the damage that happened in Alcoy, Cebu," the Palace spokesman said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

"But the people should know that from the start, that has been the livelihood in Alcoy, Cebu. This is not the first time they sold dolomite. The entire town relies on the selling of dolomite. That has been happening for a long time and that's the reason why many have livelihood and jobs in Alcoy, Cebu," he added.

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