Manila Bay’s white sand: Why not?

The hot issue being debated upon these days is the beautification project of Manila Bay by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The agency has been getting a lot of flak for using white sand from crushed dolomite rocks. As a tourism advocate, I’d like to chime in on the many issues raised on this project.  

First, they say it is a wasteful expense made at a time when the money could have been used for the country’s current fight against COVID-19. As far as I’m concerned, any beautification project on any of our tourist attractions is never wasteful because our tourism industry is among the top revenue producers for our coffers.

Department of Interior and Local Government Usec. Jonathan Malaya declared that the dolomite sand costs only P28 million and not P389 million, as originally claimed by critics. Besides, the government has never scrimped on budgets needed to equip ourselves against the virus. In fact, the President just approved the Bayanihan 2 (The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act), which is our government’s second pandemic relief measure for our country’s health and economic problems brought about by this COVID-19 outbreak.

WHITE SAND, SOON. A view of the Manila Bay, famed for its breathtaking sunset, from Roxas Boulevard prior to the ongoing beautification project. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
If there is a perception that a lot of our medical frontliners have been unnecessarily exposed to the virus due to lack of protective equipment and facilities, it was not because of the government’s unwillingness to fund the frontliners’ requirements. It could have been caused by an oversight on the part of those at the helm of the Department of Health. If proven, these negligent officials should be meted with administrative sanctions.    

And, more than anything else, life has to go on. Just because this pandemic has brought the country down to its knees, it doesn’t mean we have to disregard or stop all other aspects of our existence. Since we are already tackling this virus outbreak the best way we can, we should also embark on other endeavors that will help make our country whole again.  

Moreover, I learned from an announcement made by Yorme (Manila Mayor Isko Moreno) that this Manila Bay Beautification Project has been budgeted for and approved since before the pandemic. So now would be the perfect time to accomplish it, as we prepare for the re-opening of our erstwhile very profitable tourism industry, which is expected to be either by the end of this year or early next year.

There is also this noise about dolomite sand being a health hazard when inhaled. DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu has already announced that while it is true that dust particles of only 15 microns are hazardous when inhaled for extended periods, the dolomite sand used in Manila Bay is 5000 microns, too big and too heavy to be airborne, making it less likely to be inhaled by anyone.

 A preview of how Manila Bay will look, with all its white sand splendor.
Others also rant about the artificial sand’s ecological impact on marine life. But, how come nobody skewered those in power during those years of neglect which have taken its toll on Manila Bay’s water quality brought about by waste and industrial pollution? A 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court to clean up, rehabilitate, and restore the waters of Manila Bay did not spark activities that made it to the headlines.  

It was only last year’s Executive Order by the President that prompted dedicated efforts to rehabilitate the bay through continuous clean-up drives and the relocation of hundreds of homeless persons who have set up makeshift dwellings along the seawall. This initial move of the authorities to rid the water of some of its pollutants is certainly laudable. Now, I even see a new sewage treatment facility along the boulevard which, I’m sure, will help decrease the water’s coliform content to a manageable level.  

In reply to those who are worried about the dolomite sand being blown away during typhoons, DENR Usec. Benny Antiporda announced that engineering strategies are being implemented so that the sand overlay will withstand the many powerful typhoons that hit our country.

My parting shot is: Why can’t we just leave those in government to do their job?  

 Engineering interventions are being done to ensure the white sand overlay will endure strong typhoon winds.
We still have this aggressive COVID-19 which is worth worrying about, so why don’t we just make life easier for us and, instead, show our government officials some support? On my part, I am looking forward to this project’s completion which is reportedly scheduled for December.  

Incidentally, when Gustave Eiffel built his famous tower for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, the citizens criticized him for its “strange” design, pelted him and the tower with eggs and tomatoes on Opening Day. When the Rio de Janeiro government officials decided to beautify and widen Copacabana Beach by dumping white sand imported from other parts of Brazil, the city’s residents were against what they called an “unnecessary” expense.  

The Eiffel Tower is now the most famous and most recognizable tourism landmark in the world. The four-kilometer Copacabana Beach is now Brazil’s main tourist attraction and has been named the best beach in the world! So, by next year, I’m sure hordes of tourists, both domestic and foreign, will be seen cavorting on the white sands of Manila Bay.  I can almost hear the tourism industry’s cash register ringing non-stop!  

Shouldn’t life be this way, by always being more positive and less stressful?


So what if I don’t know what Armageddon means? It’s not the end of the world!

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Topics: Manila Bay , White sand , Department of Environment and Natural Resources , COVID-19 , Jonathan Malay , Copacabana Beach , Isko Moreno , Roy Cimatu
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