DENR to pursue dolomite project in Manila Bay – Cimatu

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is keen to pursue its “white sand” beach project in the Manila Bay despite criticisms on its environmental impacts and sustainability.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu (RTVM / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

During the Senate's committee discussion on the DENR's P25.55-billion proposed budget for 2021 on Friday, DENR officials said they will continue pouring crushed dolomite in the 500-meter stretch of the Manila Bay once they are able to procure more from private suppliers.

Defending the project, Secretary Roy Cimatu maintained that controversial dolomite sand will not cause hazards on health and the environment.

“They asked us if it is hazardous, I say and we say: No, it is not hazardous,” Cimatu said.

Before this, Senator Imee Marcos had asked the DENR for an environmental impact assessment as she raised studies from the University of the Philippines on the risks of the DENR's beach nourishment project.

Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the dolomite, having been formed in a marine environment, is not destructive to the ecosystem and said it is already being in used other parts of the world, besides big resorts in the Philippines.

Although he admitted that the fake beach sand is prone to being washed out by currents, Leones said he thinks that it would also be sent back to coast “because of the wave action.”

He also explained to senators that the DENR has employed engineering interventions to prevent strong waves and currents from washing it away.

Leones said the agency halted the overlaying of “white sand” in the Manila Bay due to some problems with their private contractor in Cebu where they sourced the dolomite. He noted that they cannot extract sand from the country's coastal areas as it is prohibited by law.

“Iyong dolomite lang po ang nagka-problem doon, but yung continuous rehabilitation, dredging, desilting, water quality improvement, tuloy-tuloy pa din po sa buong baywalk (We only had problems with the dolomite supply, but the rehabilitation, desilting, water quality improvement are still ongoing for the entire baywalk),” he said.

“Kung magkaroon po ng available na (If we will get an available supply of) dolomite, we can still continue. Because we believe dolomite is an enhancer of the sand in the Manila Bay,” he said.

The government has allocated this year some P389 million for the Manila Bay beach nourishment project. The procurement of dolomite cost P28 million, or six percent of the total budget, Leones clarified.

Rehab, tourism

Cimatu, for his part, stressed that the white sand beach project only forms part of its efforts to clean up and rehabilitate the Manila Bay as the Supreme Court (SC) and President Duterte have ordered.

But he said the baywalk is the “epicenter” of their program as they aim to also revive the American colonizers' purpose to transform the Roxas Boulevard as a “tourism center.”

Among others, he said they plan to put up souvenir shops along the stretch of the baywalk for tourists, as well as a fishermen's wharf to cater to fisherfolk in the Manila Bay.

“Itong baywalk na ito (This baywalk), I will make this really a tourist center, makikita ng foreigners na nandyan 'yong magandang beach natin sa Pilipinas (so that foreigner will see that we have beautiful beaches in the Philippines)... Ito lang kasi maipakita natin sa Manila ngayon na iyon ang showcase, like in the other countries (This is the only thing that we can showcase for Manila, like in other countries). Sa atin (For us) it will be the baywalk,” Cimatu said.

While he supports calls for mangrove planting, Cimatu said this will not be feasible in the Manila Bay due to its features.