CALOOCAN CITY, Sept. 12 (PIA) -- Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Ano on Friday defended the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)'s project placing crushed dolomites to beautify and rehabilitate a stretch of Manila Bay's shoreline, close to the Baywalk strip along Roxas Boulevard, following claims of opposition groups that it is a potential health hazard.
Ano, who vice chairs the Manila Bay Task Force, said dolomite is a common material used in beach nourishment in many parts of the country and the world and is used by many beach resorts.
"Moreover, the Department of Health (DOH) has already clearly stated that the dolomite used in Baywalk is bigger than dust, which doesn't get suspended in air, and therefore is not harmful to individuals. Once the project is completed, we invite the public to enjoy the rehabilitated and nourished beach and see for themselves if it is harmful," the DILG chief said.
According to the DOH only dolomite in dust form can be an irritant and that the size of the dolomite sands in the Manila Bay project is 2 mm to 5mm which is 100 x bigger than dust. It also stated that dolomite in its bulk state is not a known health hazard.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya, for his part, clarified that -- contrary to the claims of critics -- only P28 million of the P389 million allocation was used for the crushed dolomite rocks.
"That already covers the price of dolomite sand, transportation cost, taxes, and other fees. That's the package of the cost including delivery from Cebu to Manila Bay. It's not 389 million but 28 million," he said.
The DENR said their source of funding was a special purpose fund under the 2019 General Appropriations Act intended for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
"The project was approved by Congress under the 2019 General Appropriations Act, it underwent competitive bidding under RA 9184 and was awarded prior to the global pandemic. The government cannot simply stop a project when it is already under contractual obligation to proceed. We also have a responsibility to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay for ourselves and future generations," said Malaya.
Moreover, the amount allocated by Congress for this project did not take away any funds intended the COVID-19 response of the national government. "This was sourced from the 2019 GAA, the funds for COVID are in the 2020 GAA, Bayanihan I and now Bayanihan II; hence, this project has no effect whatsoever on government's COVID response," he said.
"We urge the critics to study the issue first before they make baseless allegations against worthwhile government projects. We welcome any investigation into this project whether in the courts of justice or in the court of public opinion. All this criticism is misplaced," he said.
"All of the agencies and organizations who are part of this endeavor have the necessary experience and technical expertise on the matter. We finally have this opportunity to improve Manila Bay for future generations. Let us not squander this opportunity. This is long overdue. We can win the battle of Manila Bay if we stay the course and get things done," he said.
Malaya said that the DILG has been working closely with the DENR and the DOT as part of the 13 Mandamus agencies directed by the Supreme Court to facilitate the cleanup, water quality improvement, and the overall rehabilitation of the Manila Bay.
Per the Mandamus issued by the Supreme Court (SC) on December 18, 2008, the DILG, DENR and 11 other national agencies (NGAs) were mandated to rehabilitate and preserve the Manila Bay to make it fit for swimming, skin diving, and other forms of contact recreation in its waters.
The DILG was mandated by the high court to have the local government units (LGUs) in Regions III, IV-A, and the National Capital Region that are within the vicinity of the Manila Bay watershed to conduct programs and activities for the rehabilitation, as well as information and education campaigns to inform and get the public involved.
In February of last year, the President issued Administrative Order No. 16 expediting the clean-up and rehabilitation of Manila Bay and creating the Manila Bay Task Force headed by DENR with DILG and DOT as vice chairs.
Under Phase I of the project, the various agencies were directed to:
Cleanup of designated esteros and waterways Reduce fecal coliform level and toxic discharges from houses and establishments by causing connection to existing sewerage treatment plants and requiring STPs for government, commercial, industrial, and educational establishments Inspect and repair leaks in old sewer lines Provide temporary sanitation facilities to informal settlers residing along esteros and shorelines pending relocation Implement solid waste management Start planning for the relocation of informal settlers Prior to the global pandemic, however, the DILG and its attached agencies have been leading the weekly clean-ups of the Manila Bay shorelines in cooperation with the various LGUs, barangays and Civil Society Organizations.
Malaya said the Department has an ongoing validation of LGU Compliance Assessment, and the continuous capacity development initiatives for the local government units via online coaching and mentoring in support of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program.
Under the said program, the Department's Bureau of Local Government Supervision (BLGS) handles the clusters on Solid Waste, Liquid Waste, and Informal Settler Families. (PIA NCR)