Pangilinan seeks probe into Manila Bay dolomite beach project

( - November 6, 2020 - 12:22pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:53 p.m.) — A senator is urging an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the possible environmental and health hazards of the Manila Bay nourishment project, which he also called wasteful and unnecessary. 

Covering a small portion of the Manila Baywalk with crushed dolomite forms part of a "beach nourishment" project which cost taxpayers P389 million and has been criticized by marine scientists as a costly and temporary effort.

“There are so many other things the country should spend money on, not the white beach project in Manila Bay. COVID cases have exceeded 380,000, many strong typhoons have passed, but they are still insisting that the project is [justified],” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said in Filipino. 

"This project is wasteful and unnecessary," he added, arguing that the funds used for the project could have been used to supplement the health sector's pandemic response or distance learning gadgets and materials for teahers and students. "It could have also served as cash aid for the millions of Filipinos who lost their jobs during the pandemic," he said in Filipino. 

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday morning said he would welcome a Senate investigation into the project.  "We are prepared to defend all decisions," he told reporters during an event launching water quality monitors at Manila Bay. 

Pangilinan filed Senate Resolution 565 to raise concerns over the sustainability, legality and possible environmental and public health hazards of the controversial project. The resolution also calls on the Senate to probe the possible liability of public officials, specifically for violating the following laws: 

  • Local Government Code
  • Philippine Fisheries Code
  • Wildlife Conservation Act
  • Environmental Impact Assessment System
  • Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees
  • Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources previously said that the crushed dolomite does not pose any health risks, according to tests by attached agencies Environmental Management Bureau and Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

RELATED: DOH: Crushed dolomite on Manila Bay bigger than dust, won't pose health risks

"The problem is not only in Manila Bay but also in the mining of dolomites in Alcoy, Cebu which may have damaged coral reefs and casused the loss of habitat of some endangered species. In short, it brought more problems instead of a solution," Pangilinan emphasized in Filipino. 

The senator also pointed out that rising waves in the area have started to wash away P28-million-worth of crushed dolomite. 

"There are also concerns that the strong typhoons that barrel the country every year will wash away the proposed white beach, especially following back-to-back Typhoon Quinta and Super Typhoon Rolly," he said. 

Over a decade ago, the Supreme Court, through a mandamus, directed government agencies to “clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters.”

— Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico

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