MANILA - Officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) defended the Manila Bay beautification project anew, saying criticisms against the program were "misplaced."
"Once the project is completed, we invite the public to enjoy the rehabilitated and nourished beach and see for themselves if it is harmful,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, vice chair of the Manila Bay Task Force, said in a statement Saturday.
Año, a retired general, claimed dolomite which was used as artificial white sand in Manila Bay "is a common material used in beach nourishment" in resorts around the world.
Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the project was only P28 million, contrary to reports.
"That already covers the price of dolomite sand, transportation cost, taxes, and other fees. That’s the package of the cost including delivery from Cebu to Manila Bay. It’s not 389 million but 28 million," he said in a statement.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources had said the white sand project was funded through a special purpose fund under the 2019 General Appropriations Act intended for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
“The project was approved by Congress under the 2019 General Appropriations Act, it underwent competitive bidding under RA 9184 and was awarded prior to the global pandemic. The government cannot simply stop a project when it is already under contractual obligation to proceed. We also have a responsibility to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay for ourselves and future generations,” added Malaya.
He also claimed the project did not affect the government's coronavirus pandemic response.
“We urge the critics to study the issue first before they make baseless allegations against worthwhile government projects. We welcome any investigation into this project whether in the courts of justice or in the court of public opinion. All this criticism is misplaced,” Malaya said.
But storms and the high tide could wash away the artificial white sand that the government dumped around Manila Bay, a scientist had said.
Sand is “always transported from one place to the other” along beaches because “there’s a lot of energy that makes the materials move,” said University of the Philippines Resilience Institute executive director Mahar Lagmay.
“If you put white sand in that place, chances are during storms and during high tide, when the waves are high… all of the sand will be washed out and transported,” he told ANC.
Cebu, where the artificial white sand was sourced, has since banned the extraction of dolomite.