On April 14, heavy equipment once again poured crushed dolomite on the shores of Manila Bay, as part of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program. The area, now called the “Dolomite Beach” by many, aims to beautify the once-renowned Manila Bay and transform it into a white sand beach.
Despite the intention, many criticized the program by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that was launched in July 2020. Environmental and marine experts have constantly reminded the department that the dumping of dolomite on the shore poses a threat to the environment and marine life in Manila Bay. (LIST: The Loans Signed by PH Government for COVID-19 Response)
Not only that, as the Department of Health (DOH) even said that it poses health risks to people living around and visiting the area. Inhaling fine dolomite particles can cause respiratory problems in the future, they explained.
A Hefty Budget
ANOTHER DOLOMITE DOSE
LOOK: Heavy vehicles dump fresh dolomite at the “Dolomite Beach” along Roxas Boulevard in Manila on Tuesday, April 13. The artificial white sand beach is part of a P389 million-peso project of the gov’t to rehabilitate Manila Bay. 📷 Grig C. Montegrande/PDI pic.twitter.com/WjyzbTfRtB
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) April 13, 2021
These reminders, however, do not seem to stop DENR from continuing with its rehabilitation program. For beginners, the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program has a P389 million budget for 2021— P28 million of that solely for the crushed dolomite that was easily swept away during the typhoons and storms that happened in 2020.
But according to DENR, they have put engineering interventions in place to prevent another instance of a “wash out” of the artificial white sand. They added that the project will continue despite the pandemic and the flak it has drawn from the public.
“Our work continues despite the limitations in mobilizing people, especially for our clean-up, monitoring, and enforcement activities,” the DENR said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque even said that Manila Bay Beach will help Filipinos amid the pandemic, as it provides a place for people in the Metro to prioritize their mental health. (Read: 4 Places to Escape Near Metro Manila to Save Your Mental Health)
“I think ‘yung pagpapasyal sa mga lugar gaya ng Manila Bay na may white beach, hindi mo ma-qua-quantify ang epekto nyan pagdating sa mental health ng ating mga kababayan,” he said.
Ironically, even with the P389 million rehabilitation underway, the government said that they can no longer provide financial aid to those affected by the pandemic. “Problem is wala na tayong pera. I cannot give food anymore and money to people,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in 2020.
But just last March, he also approved the P1,000 in-kind aid for low-income families affected by the enhanced community quarantine in NCR Plus. According to the government, some P23 billion for this came from the Bayanihan 2 budget.
Currently, the Philippines’s domestic debt is already at P7.3 trillion, and external debt at P3 trillion. The government will also be loaning around P58.5 billion for COVID-19 vaccines.