Manila Bay is in the news again. It is being provided with a patch of white sand along 500 meters of the baywalk, actually not sand but crushed dolomite boulders, a variant of limestone, that is coming all the way from Cebu , according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The project has a budget of P389 million.
Senate President Vicente Sotto expressed concern that the white sand or crushed boulder would just wash out to sea after some time. Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian cited a geologist’s concern about this possibility of storms and high tides washing away the artificial sand. DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda assured there are engineering interventions prepared by the department to prevent this.
Vice President Leni Robredo said the white sand beach project was a “misplaced priority” at a time when the government is in need of funds with which to fight the COVIC-19 pandemic, including aid to the poor suffering from the government restrictions. Government quarters were quick to dismiss her statement as the usual political opposition.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque defended the project, saying it will be good for the people’s mental health, as it will distract them from the global health crisis. It will also help the country’s tourism program as it will boost Manila Bay’s popularity in the world.
The Manila Bay has long been an important part of the country’s history. It was where United States Admiral Dewey defeated the Spanish fleet in the Spanish-American War in 1898, effectively ending Spain’s 350-year colonial period and heralding the rise of the new world power, the US.
More recently, in 2008, the Supreme Court , acting on a complaint filed in 1999 by the Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, ordered that it be cleaned up of all its dirt and sewage. The court ordered various government agencies led by the DENR to rehabilitate the bay, so that It should again be fit for ”swimming skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.”
The problem of Manila Bay is pollution. Sewage from all over Metro Manila flows through the Pasig River into the bay, along with sewage and agricultural wastes from the provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite. Because of the pollution, Metro Manilans are banned from swimming in the bay.
After he did a good job of cleaning up Boracay, DENR Secretary Cimatu was directed by President Duterte to do the same in Manila Bay. The job is more than ten times bigger but it can be done if the DENR can concentrate on it, using all possible resources.
A white beach may help improve the view in Manila Bay, but we hope to see substantial action from the DENR and other government agencies on the real problem – pollution of the bay’s waters.