Authorities violated several laws when they dumped crushed dolomite on a 500-meter stretch of the Manila Bay's naturally gray shoreline in Manila to make it appear like white sand, environmental group Oceana Philippines said Sunday.
Oceana Philippines vice president Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said among the laws that were flouted were the Fisheries Code and the National Cultural Heritage Protection Act.
The so-called “beach nourishment project, which costs around P349 million, also did not undergo environmental impact assessment, Ramos said.
"I'm aghast, appalled, considering we're facing a pandemic and public funds are used to prioritize a so-called beautification campaign. Many laws were violated by the agency mandated to protect the environment,” she told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
However, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said no law was violated.
Antiporda said there was no Fisheries Code violation since authorities cleaned up Manila Bay and replaced the garbage with sand. He also denied the NHCP Act was violated since past administrations have also made improvements along the beach front.
Antiporda added that the funding for the project was already allocated last year, way before the pandemic.
He also claimed dolomite, a sedimentary rock, will not affect Manila Bay’s ecosystem.
However, Ramos said dolomite contains mercury and lead that could be harmful to marine life.
"Even scientists are saying this is a waste of taxpayers’ funds. For sure rains will bring the sand to the ocean. And it's disheartening because this is fake sand – it has mercury and lead content,” she said.
“Many laws were violated so we’re also teaming up with other groups calling on the agencies to investigate actions taken by these officials,” Ramos added.
The DENR is scheduled to inspect the project on Sept. 19, in time for International Coastal Cleanup Day.