Groups call white sand on Manila Bay 'a sham,' 'purely aesthetic'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — Two advocacy groups are questioning the decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to overlay white sand on the shores of Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard.

In separate statements released on Thursday, marine conservation group Oceana Philippines and militant fishers group PAMALAKAYA said the act focused too much on aesthetic rehabilitation and did little to contribute to the rehabilitation and restoration of the area,

“The DENR doesn’t have any concrete plan to restore the bay that it resorts to focus on external beautification which is actually a sham and artificial, instead of a genuine rehabilitation,” said Fernando Hicap, national chairman of PAMALAKAYA.

Instead of white sand, Hicap said mangroves and sea grasses would be more beneficial to the bay.

“Why invest in white sand when you can plant mangrove forests and sea grasses that would restore and balance its marine ecosystem?" he said.

Meanwhile, Oceana said it seemed the DENR does not know the cost of what it was doing.

“Bakit inuuna ang purely aesthetic program sa rehabilitation ng Manila Bay? Para kanino itong programa na ito?" Oceana said a statement. "Does the Department of Environment and Natural Resources not know that they are destroying the coasts?”

[Translation: Why are they prioritizing a purely aesthetic program for Manila Bay's rehabilitation? Who is this project for? Does the Department of Environment and Natural Resources not know that they are destroying the coasts?”]

Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos pointed out that government agencies are required to undergo Environmental Impact Study process and obtain an Environmental Compliance Certificate for this kind of project.

“Ironically, it is the DENR that does not seem to follow the requirements set by law,” she said.

Oceana also noted the sand being added to the bay does not seem to be originally from it, saying the government could be destroying not just the Manila Bay, but the source of the white sand as well.

In response, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the material being overlaid along the baywalk was not sand, but dolomite boulders from Cebu that were crushed and transported to Manila.

"I-o-overlay siya sa beach area para makita ng tao na itong white sand e magsi-signify ng kalinisan," he said in a video message Thursday.

[Translation: This will be overlaid on the beach area so that people can see the white sand symbolizes cleanliness.]

Antiporda said it would be a reminder to people to keep the environment clean despite the pandemic.

"Dahil naniniwala po ang ating Kalihim Roy Cimatu na konektado ang pandemic na ito sa atin pong pagiging pabaya sa ating kalikasan at sa atin pong kapaligiran," he said.

[Translation: Because our Secretary Roy Cimatu believes the pandemic is connected to our being careless with nature and the environment.]

He also addressed concerns that the sand could simply erode.

"Meron po tayong mga engineering interventions na gagawin diyan para ho sigurong ma-preserve ito at masustain natin yung ating tinatawag na napakagandang Manila Bay," he said.

[Translation: We have engineering interventions that will ensure the preservation and will sustain the beauty of Manila Bay.]

The so-called beach nourishment project, he said, is phase 1 of the Manila Baywalk Project which would be inspected by secretaries of different government offices on Sept. 19.