Sunday Lifestyle

Manila Bay’s white sand beach to be like Brazil, according to Mayor Isko?

WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star
Manila Bayâs white sand beach to be like Brazil, according to Mayor Isko?
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno implement President Duterte’s Manila Bay rehab project.

Will Manila Bay’s recent temporary opening of its white-sand beach, which sparked a #ManilaBayChallenge meme craze on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter, plus the planned Oct. 1 reopening of Boracay and Baguio City, finally mark the beginnings of a much-awaited Philippine tourism revival amidst a global pandemic?

Is the 500-meter stretch of white sand beach in Manila Bay a crazy, hare-brained and outlandish idea? Or is it actually feasible and smart?

By the way, today, Sept. 27, has been celebrated as the United Nations’ World Tourism Day since 1980, with the purpose of raising awareness on the importance of tourism and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.

I believe that after this bleak pandemic of 2020 (and probably early 2021) is over, just as after the Great Plague of 1918, the Philippine economy and tourism industry will prosper again along with the rest of the world, like it did during the exuberant 1920s era known as “The Roaring Twenties” and “The Jazz Age.” That post-pandemic period of economic recovery in the west was known in France as “Les Années Folles” (“The Crazy Years”). So be hopeful.

At a recent webinar dialogue of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno with top officers of over 170 regional Filipino Chinese chambers under the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) led by president Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong, a forum which this writer moderated, tourism was among the topics discussed. Apart from asking Mayor Isko about his many reforms on reviving businesses, beautifying the city and improving law and order, some businessmen also asked about the new Manila Bay beach.

The Manila Bay Challenge meme of Anne Curtis as Dyesebel, by a fan account and approved by Anne Curtis

Manila’s version of Rio’s Copacabana Beach?

Mayor Isko Moreno gushed with excitement about Manila Bay’s new white beach, optimistically saying that it can hopefully attract more tourists. He cited Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous Copacabana Beach or the Eiffel Tower in Paris as top tourist draws. He said he hopes this white-sand beach will boost hotels and restaurants in the Manila Bay area, even as he appealed to the public to revive businesses and generate jobs while adapting to the global pandemic with responsible health and safety protocols.

Mayor Isko Moreno pointed to the Copacabana Beach promenade as the world’s most famous promenade. Built in 1906 by Mayor Pereira Passos with a design inspired by Rocio’s Square in Lisbon, all the stones used to build Copacabana’s promenade in fact came all the way from Portugal.

In reply to criticisms by some politicians and environmental groups questioning the P389-million Manila Bay white sand project, Mayor Isko cited the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which was also criticized when it opened in 1889. He pointed out that it has since become the No. 1 reason tourists go to Paris and is now the world’s most popular paid monument for tourists to visit, attracting seven million visitors.

Congratulations to the soft-spoken ex-general and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu for efficiently implementing President Duterte’s bold idea to rehabilitate the once blighted yet still scenic and historic Manila Bay with an overlay of artificial white sand made of crushed dolomite rocks from Alcoy town in south Cebu.

On Sept. 21 in Davao City at a cabinet meeting, Duterte said on national TV: “Let us begin by congratulating Secretary Cimatu. I remember that meeting (in Davao City) — I think everybody was there —when I said: ‘Can you clean this up?’ And the answer was very curtly given. He said: ‘I can work on it.’ People now are really enjoying the reclaimed area with the white sand, at least. He impressed me; he accepted my dare. He just said he would do it. And people are now enjoying the benefits of the determined action of a Cabinet member to do good.”

Is a manmade white-sand beach really a good idea, or is it just outrageous? Is Mayor Isko Moreno correct in his optimism for Manila tourism with this out-of-the-box idea?

Manila Bay joins famous manmade beaches

Based on my research, including asking foreign friends who have messaged me about this, I’m pleasantly surprised to discover that there are actually various past examples of successful manmade beach projects in other parts of the world and they’re now tourist attractions. Here are some:

• A Singaporean businessman reminded me that their popular Sentosa Island is a manmade theme park and weekend holiday oasis for Singaporeans and tourists wanting a relaxing respite from city life. Sentosa’s three main beaches stretch a mile and include Palawan Beach, Siloso Beach and Tanjong Beach, and they’re all artificial with imported sand from Malaysia and Indonesia.

• Other unique manmade islands are Palm Jumeirah (Palm Islands) and The World Islands of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Most of the plots and houses there are owned by billionaires. One of the manmade isle’s owners is seven-time Formula One World champion Michael Schumacher, who was presented this gift by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on the occasion of his final Grand Prix in Brazil in October 2006.

• Another place world-famous celebrities and super-rich jetsetters love to visit for its manmade white-sand beach is the unabashedly named Artificial Beach in the Maldives’ capital city of Male. It is a fun place for tourism, water sports, live music, entertainment and carnivals.

• Monaco’s manmade Larvotto Beach is its only public beach, located in front of the city’s pre-existing seafront. Travel Channel describes this glitzy beach, lined at the back with luxury apartment buildings, as “perhaps the single most glamorous beach in the world… where women may go without their bikini tops, but wouldn’t dare to be seen without their jewels.” Wow!

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Thanks for your feedback at [email protected]! Follow @wilsonleeflores on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Read also https://investment.fwd.com.ph/experts/asia-s-business-leaders-and-what-we-can-learn-from-them.


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