Press Release
October 3, 2020

De Lima seeks probe into P389-M Manila Bay beach 'nourishment' project

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate investigation into the controversial P389 million Manila Bay beach "nourishment" project that poses environmental and health hazards.

In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 532, De Lima said the budget spent in the Manila Bay project could have been used to feed 5.2 million hungry families because of the pandemic, or allotted for healthcare by way of COVID-19 government response.

"Contrary to Presidential Spokesperson Roque claims that 'white sand' makeover will give immeasurable benefit to Filipinos' mental health, this P389 million band-aid project has indeed brought more harm than good," she said.

"The makeover of Manila Bay shows that this administration's priorities lean towards cosmetic beautification rather than health, economic aid, or education. Now is the opportune time to conduct this investigation as we are nearing fiscal year 2021 deliberations in Congress," she added.

Recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) received nationwide backlash for proceeding with a project to fill a 500-meter stretch of Manila Bay with crushed dolomite from Cebu as part of the bay's rehabilitation.

A 2012 safety report by Texas distributor and builder Lehigh Hanson showed that crystalline silica in dolomites can cause damage to the lungs, cause irritation to the skin and eyes, or even cancer when it is breathed.

In fact, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire herself attested to dolomite's health risk, saying it can cause pain in the stomach and result to diarrhea but the department later softened its stance to qualify that the process of crushing dolomite rocks - not the rocks themselves - was hazardous.

Likewise, environmental group Oceana Philippines warned that dolomite could actually destroy both the natural ecosystem and coastal integrity of Manila Bay as the dolomite material is not the natural substrate of that portion of the bay.

"Aside from affecting the ecosystem of the bay, the dolomite sand can also damage the other features of the bay like the mangroves, beaches, and mudflats where shellfish, crabs, and fish nurseries thrive," De Lima said.

Last Sept. 24, Akbayan Partylist filed a petition before the Supreme Court to cite DENR for contempt for violating the 2008 writ of Continuing Mandamus to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay, saying that the dumping of crushed dolomite boulders on the foreshore areas of Manila Bay contravenes the Court order.

The lady Senator from Bicol said the DENR must be reminded of its primary responsibility to conserve, manage, develop, and properly use the country's environment and natural resources for the welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos.

"Only in this administration has Imeldific beautification projects once again trumped informed decision-making of supposedly professional organizations like the DENR. Nakakapanghinayang ang mga taon na ginugol ng mga nakaraang administrasyon para sa pagpapadalubhasa sa mga kawani ng DENR kung gagawin lamang silang 'window-dressers' o taga-palamuti," De Lima said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 925.

"Officials of DENR must be held accountable for non-compliance with several laws like the Local Government Code, the Philippine Fisheries Code, the Wildlife Conservation Act, and PD 1586 or the Environmental Impact Assessment System, among others, in implementing this project," she said.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, stressed that government programs must be geared towards reviving the economy or helping our marginalized Filipinos, and not pouring money on unnecessary, costly, insensitive and hazardous projects such as the cosmetic beautification of Manila Bay.

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