Atienza says dolomite beach good only for ‘superficial whitening’

Published September 13, 2020, 5:57 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

A mere “superficial whitening” of Manila Bay.

That’s how Buhay Party-List Representative and former three-term Manila mayor Lito Atienza described Sunday the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) “white sand project” in Manila Bay.

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

Atienza, also former DENR secretary, further said that the project, which  makes use of sand from crushed dolomite, is “worthless” and a “complete waste of public funds.”

“The white sand being dumped there is just a storm surge away from getting washed out,” Atienza said.

By saying this, the congressman expressed that he didn’t believe DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu’s remarks before the House Committee on Appropriations last week that the dolomite sand they procured wasn’t prone to washing out since it was heavier than grains of normal sand.

Atienza futher said that the ecological problem besetting Manila Bay is so severe that no amount of “pretentious face-lifting” can reverse it.

“Its waters have been overwhelmed by fecal coliform…Anybody who swims in the bay’s heavily contaminated waters risks exposure to waterborne pathogenic diseases, including viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, hepatitis A, dysentery, typhoid fever and all sorts of infections,” he warned.

He said a large portion of Metro Manila’s raw human sewage from households continues to drain into the Pasig River and other waterways, which all empty out into Manila Bay every day.

The use of white-colored dolomite sand in the Baywalk area–termed as “beach nourishment” by the DENR–is just one part of the broader Manila Bay rehabilitation effort, which has a price tag of P389 million. Some P28 million were spent for the dolomite, the DENR told the House panel.

Atienza said the strategy is bound to fail due to the negligence of Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. in performing their obligations to capture all sewage and provide adequate wastewater treatment facilities in their service areas.

In August last year, the Supreme Court (SC) unanimously upheld a 2009 order issued by Atienza, who was then Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, penalizing the two private water suppliers for violating Section 8 of the Clean Water Act of 2004.

The two water concessionaires, along with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), were slapped a combined initial fine of almost P2 billion.

Until they fully comply with the Clean Water Act, the SC ordered Manila Water, Maynilad and the MWSS to continue to pay a daily fine of P322,102 – an amount that escalates by 10 percent in two years – plus legal interest of six percent per annum, the solon said.