Brothers and sisters, the piling of white sand in a section of Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard had elicited a lot of different reactions.
In the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ defense, this was part of Manila Bay’s rehabilitation project initiated in January of the previous year. DENR said that the people need not worry because the sand used for the rehabilitation came from pulverized dolomite boulders from the province of Cebu that serve as artificial white sand. According to the department, this “white sand beach” sends a message of cleanliness that will encourage the public to care for their surroundings. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque defended this. He said that sightseeing in the Manila Baywalk that is covered with white sand would help in the mental health of the Filipinos. Meanwhile, from one media forum, the Department of Health’s spokesman said that the small grains of dolomite can cause negative effects in peoples’ health. This could cause respiratory illnesses, eye irritation, stomachaches, and diarrhea. But after two days, DOH revoked this claim.
Many experts and groups worry about this government project. Greenpeace Philippines said that placing synthetic materials above an unclean environment wouldn’t help clean Manila Bay. This would further destroy Manila Bay’s natural ecosystem because it is not a natural part of the ocean. On another note, the president of the fishermen group PAMALAKAYA said that it would be better to plant sea grasses because these would help restore the health of Manila Bay’s ecosystem.
There are some who commented that there are no other benefits from this project aside from aesthetic purposes. The fake sand would just get washed away by strong waves during the rainy season. Aside from this, this project also caused damage to the mountains in Cebu due to the mining of dolomite.
For Vice President Leni Robredo, dedicating a P389 million budget for “beach nourishment” of Manila Bay is insensitive. The fund could instead be used to fill the growling stomachs of almost 80,000 families during this pandemic. It’s not impossible for the budget to be realigned, given the tremendous problems caused by the pandemic. Like what Manila Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Most Rev. Broderick Pabillo said in an interview, this project is “ill-timed” now that many of our fellowmen have lost jobs and are suffering.
This government project is truly despicable, as this isn’t a precise and long-term solution for the severe pollution problem in Manila Bay. This is a shallow step to take for a problem with deep roots. The money and time dedicated for this is wasted, especially since there are a lot of people suffering from the pandemic. Our leaders must direct their attention to just and reasonable solutions for the more urgent problems of our fellowmen. A good reminder for our leaders can be seen in the book of Proverbs 27: 23-24, “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.”
Brothers and sisters, like what Pope Francis said in Laudato Si, “halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster.” Projects like the “white sand beach” won’t solve the real problems of Manila Bay. Beautifying Manila Bay’s image can be compared to laying down an expensive carpet over a floor covered with dirt and dust.
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