Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso defended on Thursday the pouring of a new coat of dolomite sand in a portion of the Manila Bay, saying that projects of the government should continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Life must go on. Things must move on the way we wanted it,” Domagoso said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
However, former Vice President Jejomar Binay disagreed, saying: “With thousands infected and dying from COVID-19, and over 4 million out of work and needing ayuda, government is wasting millions on a fake dolomite ‘beach.’”
“Some people in government have lost not only their compassion and sense of priorities but their common sense,” he added.
Still, Domagoso said: “We must continue to move on. The country must move because economically we’re hurt… All other things in the government in terms of visions, aspirations, future development for midterm and long term must be done.”
This was the mayor’s reply when asked if the timing of pouring another coat of dolomite sand in the area was appropriate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the national government is working on beautifying the Manila Bay, Domagoso said he will focus on what the local government can do about the pandemic.
On Wednesday, several backhoe operators are currently at work in the area pouring and leveling crushed dolomite rocks in the Manila Bay.
About 500 tons of crushed dolomite rocks were placed last year by the government to spruce up a portion of the Baywalk area in the Manila Bay and was opened to the public by September 2020.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier said the P389-million project will discourage people from littering.
The Health department has declared that the rocks are not a health hazard.
The project was criticized by environmentalists and fisherfolk, saying that the project was not the answer to pollution control in the area.
Citing information from the DENR, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Sonny Batungbacal said that only 15 percent (2.4 million out of 16.3 million) of the water-served population in Metro Manila are connected to a sewerage system.
Several criticisms and controversies have hounded the use of crushed dolomite boulders on a portion of the Manila Bay beach, a vital part of the bigger Manila Bay rehabilitation project spearheaded by the DENR.
The overlaying of the dolomite in September 2020 in Manila Bay beach, also called “beach nourishment project”, caught the public’s attention, stirring controversy and attracting people to flock to the area to get a glimpse of the “white sands.”
Many groups and individuals criticized the project, throwing allegations at the DENR, calling the project a health hazard and a waste of public funds.
However, the DENR emphasized that the beach nourishment with the use of dolomite is a significant component of the rehabilitation aimed to protect the coastal resources in the area and prevent coastal flooding, erosion, and pollution.