EcoWaste Coalition, Pamalakaya assail Manila Bay ‘white sand beach’ project; say it doesn’t conform with SC mandamus

Published September 7, 2020, 2:43 PM

by Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz & Raymund F. Antonio

More groups have been expressing dissatisfaction over the artificial “white sand” beach to beautify the “polluted” Manila Bay.

Workers pile the "white sand" to be laid on Manila bay on Saturday morning. (Photo by Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)
Workers pile the “white sand” to be laid on Manila bay on Saturday morning.
(Photo by Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

“This beautification project is ill advised and has drawn the ire of many sectors because of the highly questionable foundation for undertaking such a beach nourishment project as (being a) part of Manila Bay’s rehabilitation program,” EcoWaste national coordinator Aileen Lucero said.

“We join our fisherfolk, environmental conservation advocates, maritime experts, church and political leaders in raising howls over this short-sighted and extravagant project that will project artificial white sand beach from crushed dolomite rocks from Cebu,” she added.

Lucero pointed out that Manila Bay does not need cosmetic beautification through beach nourishment that has to be periodically repeated to address coastal erosion due to waves and storm surges.

Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya has urged authorities to suspend the beach nourishment project until its suitability and sustainability in relation to the rehabilitation program have been established.

It added that the environmental and health issues that have been raised by are “more than enough basis” for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to suspend the project.

Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said the Supreme Court (SC) mandamus issued in 2008 was clear that it was ordering the restoration of waters with coliform levels that would be suitable for human recreational activities, and for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, in coordination with the local government units to develop fishery resources.

”Synthetic beautification is far from genuine rehabilitation. Not even a huge amount of white sand can hide the deteriorating environment and ecosystem of Manila Bay,” Hicap said.

“The SC mandamus never mentioned any beautification component programs such as the present project of the DENR,” he added.

“We demand the DENR to suspend and eventually terminate this absurd project because it is useless and a waste of people’s fund with no benefit to the fishers and coastal residents residing along Manila Bay,” Hicap concluded.

EcoWaste also appealed to the DENR and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to publicly disclose studies and proceedings of consultative meetings if any that will shed light on the decision of the government to spend for the beach nourishment project.

“As the public have the right to know, we urge the DENR and the DPWH to post on their websites all pertinent documents that will provide environmental, health, legal and financial justification for pursuing this beautification project,” Lucero said.

“We want to know if the implementing agencies have considered potential harm to the marine and coastal ecosystems and to human health, and how much of taxpayers’ money will be required for the continuing monitoring, maintenance and replenishment of the ‘white sand’ beach, which could be used for truly rehabilitating Manila Bay and for supporting the poor who depend on it for their livelihood,” she added.

EcoWaste said the government should see to it that all pollution prevention and aquatic conservation laws such as Republic Act (RA) 9003, RA 9275 and RA 8550 as amended by RA 10654 are effectively enforced to put an end to the spillage and dumping in water bodies of plastic and other marine litter, sewage sludge and other pollutants.

RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, seeks to “ensure the proper segregation, collection, transport, storage, treatment and disposal of solid waste through the formulation and adoption of the best environmental practice in ecological waste management excluding incineration.”

RA 9275 or the Clean Water Act, seeks to protect water bodies from pollution from land-based sources, including those from industries and commercial establishments, agricultural estates and community and household activities.

RA 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code, meanwhile seeks to attain “the conservation, protection and sustained management of the country’s fishery and aquatic resources, and poverty alleviation and the provision of supplementary livelihood among municipal fisherfolk,” among other things.

Furthermore, RA 8550 as amended by RA 10654, directs the state “to adopt the precautionary principle and manage fishery and aquatic resources, in a manner consistent with the concept of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management and integrated coastal area management.”

Members of the Nilad Metro Manila Environmental Network also asked the DENR to cancel all ongoing reclamation projects and instead conduct cleanup drives.

The members said they have been doing their part in organizing cleanup operations in the past several years.

They committed to continue to mobilize community groups to protect the Manila Bay.