'Many laws' violated in dumping of fake sand in Manila Bay: group

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2020 09:00 AM | Updated as of Sep 06 2020 09:07 AM

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MANILA - Authorities violated several environmental laws when they dumped synthetic white sand in Manila Bay, Oceana Philippines said Sunday.

The group cited laws such as the Fisheries Code and the National Cultural Heritage Protection Act. The project also did not undergo environmental impact assessment, said Oceana Philippines Vice President Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.

"Aghast, appalled, considering na nasa pandemic tayo at ang pondo ng tao ay pina-prioritize na ibigay sa isang beautification campaign, so-called, but maraming batas natin na hindi sinusunod ng mismong ahensiya na binigyan ng mandato to protect the environment," she told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(I'm aghast, appalled, considering we're facing a pandemic and public funds is used to prioritize a so-called beautification campaign but many laws were violated by the agency mandated to protect the environment.)

Government used dolomite which contains mercury and lead that could be harmful to marine life, especially a new species of sardines found in the area, Estenzo-Ramos said.

"Even scientists are saying this is a waste of taxpayers’ funds. Sigurado na pag umuulan ay madala ito sa karagatan. And it’s disheartening because fake na sand ito, has mercury and lead contents. There’s no safe level for mercury," she said.

(For sure rains will bring the sand to the ocean. And it's disheartening because this is fake sand, it has mercury and lead contents.)

"There’s a study mismo ng BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources), Fisheries Resources Institute na rich sardine-spawning ang Manila Bay. Madaming fisherfolk ang dependent on the ecological integrity ng Manila Bay."

(The BFAR and the Fisheries Resources Institute have a study that Manila Bay is a rich sardine-spawning area. Many fisherfolk are dependent on its ecological integrity.)

There's also an existing order from the Supreme Court to rehabilitate Manila Bay, Estenzo-Ramos added.

"You don’t do that by polluting the waters and you don’t do that by covering the essential habitats there in Manila Bay," she said.

"Ang daming na-violate na batas (Many laws were violated) so we’re also teaming up with other groups calling on the agencies DENR, BFAR to investigate actions taken by these officials."

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno earlier said he would not oppose the dumping of synthetic white sand on the capital city's baywalk, owing to the expertise of the environment department. 

"Under the law, environmental protection is a devolved service to our local governments. So, kailangang kailangan na titingnan nila na 'yang ginagawa ay... walang negative impacts on the environment. So I hope Mayor Isko Moreno would really reconsider his position and look into the matter," Estenzo-Ramos said.

"Eh, mag-iinvestigate nga ang Cebu, bakit hindi mag-iinviestigate ang Manila? Ang laki ng impact nito. Andaming consequences nito."