Manila Bay funds could have fed poor families – Robredo

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The P349 million allocated by the government to transform a portion of Manila Bay into a white sand beach could have been used to feed 80,000 hungry families, Vice President Leni Robredo said yesterday.

“It’s insensitive that you’ll do it at the height of the pandemic when many people are hungry and suffering,” Robredo said.

She said President Duterte has repeatedly said the government had run out of funds to give cash assistance to Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vice President earlier urged the administration to provide P5,000 in subsidy to the poorest households severely affected by the health crisis.

“With almost P400 million (budget) at P5,000 for each family, you can help around 80,000 families in a month,” Robredo said.

The government is allowed to realign the 2020 budget due to COVID-19 crisis, she said.

“While it is true that this was part of the 2020 budget, it was done prior to COVID-19. Now that we are facing a pandemic, why not reassess the budget and prioritize assistance to hospitals, salaries of the frontliners, food for the poor and mass testing,” Robredo said.

She disagreed with presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s statement that the white sand beach in Manila Bay could improve the people’s mental health amid the pandemic.

“If we want to ease the mental health problem, we should do our job to end the pandemic,” she said.

The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipininas slammed the white sand project, saying the funds could have been used to cover 13,000 hectares of the bay’s coast with mangroves. – Elizabeth Marcelo

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