MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said there is nothing wrong with the government dumping crushed dolomite on Manila Bay to create an artificial beach.
This, after throngs of people went to the Manila Bay over the weekend to see the artificial white sand dumped in the area.
"People now really enjoy the reclaimed area with the white sand, maski na papaano," Duterte said during his weekly address to the nation.
"Wala naman talaga tayong magawa. You do it, may masabi sila. You do not do it, may masabi si (Vice President) Leni (Robredo). What do you want us to do?" he added.
(We cannot do anything. You do it, they have something to say. You do not do it, (Vice President) Leni (Robredo) will say something. What do you want us to do?)
The opposition and critics lashed out after the local government of Manila opened the area to the public over the weekend. Photos and videos of visitors showed that physical distancing protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were violated.
Duterte, however, maintained that the government cannot do anything about the virus.
"Ang problema kasi nitong white sand...Ang sabi, we are not doing enough. What can we do with the germ that is flying around? It's the microbe that cannot be controlled by any(one)," he said.
(The problem with this white sand...They said we are not doing enough. What can we do with the germ that is flying around? It's the microbe that cannot be controlled by anyone.)
"Anong gawin mo? Gusto mo i-spray mo from the sky? DDT? Wala naman tayong magawa diyan," Duterte added, referring to the banned insecticide.
(What do you want us to do? Spray chemicals from the sky? We cannot do anything about it.)
Robredo, an outspoken critic of Duterte and his political rival, said later in a statement that spraying pesticide was not what she and the critics were asking for but a government response by "means of medical and non-medical interventions."
"Yung number 1 po, hindi maso-solusyunan sa pag-spray ng pesticide sa Manila galing sa eroplano," she said in a Facebook post.
Meanwhile, Duterte praised Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu for delivering on the president's "challenge" to him to clean up the waterfront.
"I am congratulating Sec. Cimatu. I remember that meeting, and I think everyone was there when I said, 'Kaya mong linisin ito?'," Duterte said.
("I am congratulating Sec. Cimatu. I remember that meeting, and I think everyone was there when I said, 'Can you clean this?')
"Napabilib nga ako when he accepted my dare. Hinamon ko siya. Sabi ko, 'Kaya mo?' Sabi niya, 'Basta trabahuin lang.'," he added.
(I was amazed when he accepted my dare. I challenged him. I said, 'Can you do it?' He said, 'I'll just work on it.')
Following the incident, the Department of Health on Monday warned the public against violating minimum health standards such as the mandatory wearing of face masks in public places.
A police station commander in Manila was sacked for failing to implement health safety measures when people flocked to the baywalk.
The dumping of artificial white sand in a part of the bay walk drew criticism from some officials and environmental groups, saying it was an unnecessary component of the Manila Bay rehabilitation project during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Malacañang, however, has defended the project, saying funds for it were already allocated even before the health crisis. - with a report from Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News