MANILA — Funds spent for the dumping of synthetic white sand in the Manila Bay cannot be diverted to help Filipinos cope with the novel coronavirus, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Friday.
The project was bankrolled and bid out “more than a year ago,” said DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.
“Hindi ho 'yan bagong project. We cannot connect this with the pandemic,” he told ANC.
(This is not a new project.)
“Siguro kung pera lang ito na puwede nating i-juggle from one place to another, gagawin po ng gobyerno. But hindi po maaari iyan. Bawal po iyon,” he said.
(If this were money that the we can juggle from one place to another, the government will do that. But that is not possible. That is prohibited.)
A total of P389 million was allocated for rehabilitating the Manila Bay, a project that started 2 years ago. Antiporda said he did not know how much of the funds was for the synthetic sand.
Environment group Greenpeace Philippines earlier said storm surges would wash away the sand, which was also unnecessary since the bay’s cleanup was not yet complete.
Advocacy group Oceana Philippines also said dumping sand in Manila Bay could negatively affect its natural ecosystem.
NO WASTE OF PUBLIC FUNDS?
Engineers used a “geo textile” to prevent the sand from being washed away and authorities were also considering putting up a breakwater to further protect it, said Antiporda.
Muck and garbage were also removed from the area before authorities started placing the sand there, he said.
“I don’t think na pababayaan nitong experts natin na mangyari iyong mga ganiyang bagay na magsasayang lang ng pera ng ating bayan,”
(I don’t think our experts will allow for things to happen where public funds will be wasted.)
The sand, he said, came from crushed dolomite boulders from Cebu.
Dolomite contains calcium carbonate, which can also be found in sea corals and is not harmful to the sea, he said.
The white sand will cover 1 hectare of the baywalk, at 1-meter thick, said the official.
“This will also sort of relieve our stress in this situation… Some 2 years ago, it (Manila Bay) is almost biologically dead,” said Antiporda.
“But now, nagkaroon siya ng pag-asa. Just like our situation now in the pandemic, may pag-asa po ang taumbayan,” he said.
(But now, it has hope. Just like our situation now in the pandemic, there is hope for the people.)