P389M for beach nourishment vs millions of hungry Filipinos

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas (The Freeman) - September 10, 2020 - 12:00am

"Here in Manila, we know that there are many who are poor. We will bring the white sand closer to them so it is like they are in Boracay even if they are just on Roxas Boulevard. That is what we aim to achieve here," according to DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.

At least, DENR knows there are many poor. Do they know the poor are very hungry though?

During this pandemic, which would the numerous hungry poor have preferred- P28 million spent for dolomite sand or food? Wouldn’t the poor have preferred something to eat rather than marvel at the Boracay-like sand?

To the DENR officials, is spending P389M for beach nourishment more important than the nourishment and nutrition of millions of poor and hungry Filipinos now, during this pandemic?

OCEANA, Living Laudato Si’ Philippines and other non-government organizations are campaigning to stop the dumping of crushed dolomite in Manila Bay and for the officials behind this project held accountable.

Their petition (see https://bit.ly/336U0Mn) noted that they are “fighting for the protection and conservation of our vastly threatened fisheries, biodiversity, and natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations and are alarmed that the P398-million Manila Bay beautification project is being implemented by the DENR without compliance with our national laws, amid the very challenging COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis we face.”

These organizations recommend “that the Manila Bay rehabilitation be focused on addressing the ecological degradation, pollution and socio-economic issues in the area, such as *reducing chemical, organic and plastic pollution; installing water treatment facilities; *banning the cutting of mangroves, and rehabilitating degraded areas; *stopping conversion of mangroves and wetlands through reclamation projects; *protecting critical habitats such as mangroves and wetlands and declare them as protected areas; *improving management of protected areas and *establishing formally the Fisheries Management Area for a holistic, science-based decision making on fisheries management.”

“Happening at the time when our nation faces serious health, economic and climate crises,” they noted that “the dumping of crushed dolomite boulders in Manila Bay can only be described as an abdication of that grave responsibility to protect and preserve Manila Bay.”

“In defiance of the Supreme Court MMDA Ruling and even Administrative Order No. 16, (2019) ‘Expediting The Rehabilitation And Restoration Of The Coastal And Marine Ecosystem Of The Manila Bay And Creating The Manila Bay Task Force’, this ill-conceived project violates at least five laws that impact heavily on our fisheries, biodiversity, and marine habitats,:

1) Environmental Impact System Laws and regulations, 2) The Fisheries Code (RA 8550) as amended by RA 10654, 3) The Clean Water Act, RA 9275 , 4) The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, RA 10066 which prohibits alteration of s original features of national historical landmark like Manila Bay; and, 5) The Local Government Code of 1991, RA 7160 which requires DENR “consult the stakeholders of the local government unit.”

The petition noted that in “the MMDA, et al. v. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay Ruling, the Supreme Court noted that “the cleanup and/or restoration of the Manila Bay is only an aspect and the initial stage of the long-term solution. The preservation of the water quality of the bay after the rehabilitation process is as important as the cleaning phase. The acts of DENR and DPWH as well as its bureaus in dumping dolomite rocks as ‘white sands’ which are in fact pollutants, are in direct contravention of their continuing and mandated duties in the said case.”

Concerns have also been raised that dolomite sand may adversely affect health and may easily be washed out by storm surges or rising tides.

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