PRESS RELEASE 10 September 2020

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) called for an investigation from the Environmental Team of the Office of the Ombudsman (Envi OMB) into the growing number of irregularities in the ‘white sand’ dolomite dump project in Manila Bay.

“We urge the Environmental Ombudsman to immediately probe the alleged bloating of costs and cutting of regulatory corners in the Manila Bay dolomite dump,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

“This P389-million project represents just 0.83 percent of the entire P47-billion Manila Bay rehab program. The potential for large-scale corruption, dereliction of duty, and ecological harm is completely unacceptable in these times of pandemic crisis,” he furthered.

The Envi OMB was established in 2013 to prioritize the prevention, investigation, adjudication, and prosecution of public officials that violate environmental laws and subsequently cause adverse environmental harm.

The controversial ‘white sand’ project has been widely criticized by various quarters as a “beautification project” that could pose negative impacts on the bay’s still thriving fisheries and to ecological and public health.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu recently claimed in a statement that the project serves as ‘beach nourishment’ to control beach erosion, but a number of scientists have publicly explained how the dolomite dump is bound to be washed away by confluent factors of wave action, sea level rise, and land subsidence.

It was also estimated by think-tank Infrawatch PH that the project could potentially result in a 64-percent savings of its budget, raising questions as to where majority of the funds have been spent. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) itself admitted that only P28 million of the entire budget was spent on the cost of the dolomite supply.

“Greening Manila Bay’s coasts instead of polluting it with ‘white trash’ has long been the advice of the country’s foremost scientific experts. Mangrove greenbelts and seagrass beds are viable as food security, pollution control, erosion control, and beautification solutions,” said Dulce.

“All kinds of red flags are therefore raised when a complete waste of taxpayer’s money that cannot be seen in any of the Manila Bay rehab and development blueprints, and does not have any environmental clearance, suddenly pops out of nowhere,” ended Dulce. #

Photo by: Jansen Romero|Manila Bulletin