The environmental health group EcoWaste Coalition has joined the chorus of voices expressing disgust over the artificial creation of the so-called “white sand” beach to beautify the famed but polluted Manila Bay.
“This beautification project is ill advised and has drawn the ire of many sectors because of the highly questionable foundation for undertaking such a beach nourishment project as part of Manila Bay’s rehabilitation program,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“We join our fisherfolk, environmental conservation advocates, maritime experts, church and political leaders in raising howls over this short-sighted and extravagant project that will project artificial white sand beach from crushed dolomite rocks from Cebu,” she stated.
“Manila Bay does not need cosmetic beautification through beach nourishment that has to be periodically repeated to address coastal erosion due to waves and storm surges,” she pointed out.
In line with the public’s right to know, the group urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to publicly disclose studies and proceedings of consultative meetings if any that will shed light on the decision of the government to spend taxpayers’ money for the beach nourishment project.
“As the public have the right to know, we urge the DENR and the DPWH to post on their websites all pertinent documents that will provide environmental, health, legal and financial justification for pursuing this beautification project,” said Lucero.
“We want to know if the implementing agencies have considered potential harm to the marine and coastal ecosystems and to human health, and how much of taxpayers’ money will be required for the continuing monitoring, maintenance and replenishment of the ‘white sand’ beach, which could be used for truly rehabilitating Manila Bay and for supporting the poor who depend on it for their livelihood,” she emphasized.
Government officials should not simply dismiss criticisms and questions coming from concerned sectors for this publicly funded project in an environmentally critical area, the EcoWaste Coalition said. “Every Filipino citizen deserves to be heard.”
Considering the multifaceted issues so far raised against the “white sand” beach project, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to apply the precautionary principle and desist from dumping and filling the area with dolomite materials.
The group cited the following excerpt from the World Charter of Nature in line with the precautionary principle: “Activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination; their proponents shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature, and where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed.”
Instead of cosmetic beautification, the government should stop all reclamation projects in Manila Bay that wreak havoc on the fragile marine ecosystems, including the mangroves, seagrass beds and wetlands.
The government should also see to it that all pollution prevention and aquatic conservation laws such as RA 9003, RA 9275 and RA 8550 as amended by RA 10654 are effectively enforced to put an end to the spillage and dumping in water bodies of plastic and other marine litter, sewage sludge and other pollutants.
RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, seeks to “ensure the proper segregation, collection, transport, storage, treatment and disposal of solid waste through the formulation and adoption of the best environmental practice in ecological waste management excluding incineration.”
RA 9275 or the Clean Water Act, seeks to protect water bodies from pollution from land-based sources, including those from industries and commercial establishments, agricultural estates and community and household activities.
On the other hand, RA 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code, seeks to attain “the conservation, protection and sustained management of the country’s fishery and aquatic resources, and poverty alleviation and the provision of supplementary livelihood among municipal fisherfolk,” among other things.
Furthermore, RA 8550 as amended by RA 10654, directs the state “to adopt the precautionary principle and manage fishery and aquatic resources, in a manner consistent with the concept of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management and integrated coastal area management.”