"Sadly, the government seems to be a hostile environment for common sense these days."
Given the many challenges facing the government’s vaccination drive against COVID-19, here are some common-sense suggestions that may help speed things along.
The first comes from a group of scientists, engineers and researchers, who want the government to take the P389 million earmarked for an environmentally dubious program to dump dolomite onto Manila Bay to “beautify” it, and reallocate the money to the country’s COVID-19 response.
In a statement, the group Agham (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) said the beach nourishment project should be stopped while the government studies its environmental implications of dumping crushed dolomite rocks on the bay and its ecosystem.
It criticized the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for ignoring the calls of the scientific community to halt and review the project, calling its actions as “completely lacking in scientific integrity.”
This call gained added urgency after a Philippine representative of Oceana, the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy group, observed that the dolomite dumped in the area from September to December 2020 had already been reclaimed by the sea, and that from December 2020 to February 2021, the dolomite beach had eroded by at least 300 square meters.
But this had already been predicted—and ignored. In September 2020, the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute said the dolomite sand would only erode, given the hydrodynamic conditions of the bay.
Now the DENR is throwing good money after bad, by dumping more truckloads of pulverized rocks to replace the sands washed away and fill the 500-meter stretch of the bay walk.
The math is as simple as it is compelling—P389 million could have gone to buying almost 300,000 complete doses or two jabs of China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.
Yet the Palace spokesman said there was no way to reallocate the funds that are now being used for an ongoing project. This, from the same official, who once defended the Manila Bay project by saying that Filipinos who were suffering the psychological effects of the COVID-19 lockdown, could calm their nerves by walking along an artificial white sand beach.
Another common-sense suggestion comes from Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who urged the government to allow the general public to get inoculated as vaccine hesitancy remains high among members of priority groups.
If the idea is to inoculate as many people as quickly as possible, the senator’s proposal makes eminent sense. Following the senator’s suggestion would also nip in the bud an illegal market for vaccines and vaccination slots that the government is now investigating.
Sadly, the government seems to be a hostile environment for common sense these days, and these two proposals have as much chance of taking hold as the fake white sand on the Manila Bay beach.