'Not my priority': Isko Moreno refuses to use funds for Manila Bay makeover

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 10 2020 10:07 AM | Updated as of Sep 10 2020 10:19 AM

Workers spread white sand along a portion of the Baywalk in Manila Bay on Sept. 3, 2020 as part of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program by the DENR. The white sand, which comes from Cebu, will be spread from the banks of the bay near the US Embassy to the Yacht Club. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said Thursday that while he was “very thankful” for the rehabilitation of the capital’s bay, he would not shell out money for its white sand makeover.

Some environmental groups and scientists earlier said waves could wash away the artificial white sand dumped in Manila Bay and that authorities would have to shell out money to replenish the crushed dolomite there.

Moreno said the environment department told him that “engineering works” were in place to keep the sand in place.

But if the sand is washed away, the mayor said he was willing to spend money to replenish it “10 years, 5 years from now… but not in this pandemic.”

Moreno said he would use the city’s funds for drugs, equipment and “anything that will help a patient who got infected with coronavirus.”

“I will continue to spend every single cent that is available for this pandemic,” Moreno told ANC. “It (white sand) is not my priority.”

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

The revamped beach, he said, could be a “good attraction” that would lure tourists and investors to hotels and restaurants around the bay.

“This is just the beginning. That’s why we’re very grateful,” Moreno said. “Alam naman natin na napakadumi na ng tubig ng Manila Bay.”

Manila personnel collect daily trash from the area, some of which are waste from fish pens in neighboring cities and provinces, he said. Moreno urged other local governments to heed a Supreme Court mandamus to rehabilitate the bay.

The P389-million Manila Bay rehabilitation started 2 years ago and funds cannot be diverted for the pandemic, the environment agency earlier said.

At least 3 senators have asked the agency to halt the white sand project over reports that it could be harmful to health.

Stopping the project requires a “valid reason,” said Moreno, who noted a health department statement that dolomite, in its "bulk state," was not a known health hazard.

“These lawmakers, I understand their feelings, but remember, they’re part also of the approval of the 2020 budget. It was presented to them,” the mayor said.

“Kung iyan ay makapaminsala at mapapatunayan ng mga siyentipiko, ipapaaresto ko sila lahat,” he added.

(If that is harmful and can be proven by authorities, I’ll have those responsible arrested.)