Malacañang on Monday defended the government project to pour “white sand” on the shore of Manila Bay claiming it will prevent soil erosion and flooding.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Vice President Leni Robredo said the PHP389-million project is a “misplaced priority” during the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Besides being a beautification project, Roque explained that it would also help address risk and disaster problems.
“Itong ginawa po nila, ito po ay tinatawag na beach enhancement, so hindi lang po ito pagpapaganda. Itong beach enhancement pong ito ay para po maiwasan ang soil erosion at para makatulong din po sa flood control (What they’re doing is called beach enhancement, so it’s not just beautification. This beach enhancement is also to prevent soil erosion and help flood control),” he said in a virtual presser.
He appealed to the public to trust the “overall adaptation policy” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) since it underwent several studies before it was approved.
“Huwag naman po tayong maabala na hindi alam ng DENR ang kanilang ginagawa, dahil sila nga po ang nag-a-approve ng mga environmental impact assessments at saka mga environmental impact studies. Alam naman po nila kung ano iyong dapat gawin at hindi dapat gawin (Let’s not concern ourselves with the thought the DENR doesn’t know what it’s doing because they’re the ones who approve environmental impact assessments and environmental impact studies. They know the difference between what needs to be done and what shouldn’t be done),” he said.
Since the white sand project has been approved since 2019, Roque said budget rules dictate that it should be used for that purpose.
“Hindi naman po natin inasahan na magkakaroon ng Covid-19 ‘no. So alam ninyo naman ang rules sa budget ‘no, kapag iyan po ay nasa line item, iyan lamang po ang pupuwedeng paggamitan noong pondo (We didn’t expect Covid-19. So you know the rules on budget, if it’s in the line item, the budget can only be used for that project),” he said.
The project, he said, was planned a year before and not during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Roque, he was personally pleased that there will be a “new attraction” since it would allow Metro Manila folk to experience a beach setting amid travel restrictions.
“I’m happy na magkakaroon po tayo ng beautification of Manila Bay kasi kaming mga taga-Maynila ay kinakailangan naman magkaroon din ng access sa magandang beach sa mga panahon na hindi naman pupuwedeng lumabas ng Metro Manila ‘no (I’m happy that there will be a beautification of Manila Bay because there are people from Manila who can have access to a nice beach during a time when we can’t leave Metro Manila),” he said.
He also allayed fears that storms and high tides would wash away the white sand saying there would be “engineering work” to prevent this from happening.
“Naglagay po sila ng mga tubo diyan na mayroong mga sand doon po sa perimeter para maiwasan nga po iyong matangay iyong mga sand diyan dahil primarily nga po (They already placed a tube there with sand in the perimeter to prevent the sand from being washed away because primarily), this is an anti-soil erosion project,” he added.
Meanwhile, he said the Palace will respect public policy think tank Infrawatch PH’s motion urging the Supreme Court to intervene under its Manila Bay Advisory Committee (MBAC).
“We will respect the decision of the Supreme Court, pero tingin ko naman po rirespetuhin din ng Supreme Court iyong primary jurisdiction ng DENR na pangalagaan ang kalikasan natin (but I think the Supreme Court will also respect the primary jurisdiction of the DENR to conserve our environment),” he said.
Earlier, Robredo said the millions of funds used for the white sand project of Manila Bay could have been used to help 80,000 families in need.
Robredo disagreed with Roque’s earlier suggestion that the white sand in Manila Bay would benefit the public’s mental health.
The DENR has started to dump the stretch of Baywalk on Roxas Boulevard with white sand that came from crushed dolomite boulders in Cebu. (PNA)