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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Friday vouched for the structural integrity and soundness of the Manila Bay beach nourishment project, citing initial assessments conducted by its experts.

“The dolomite overlay will not be totally washed out because we have installed engineering interventions in the perimeter of the sand,” DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones told a virtual press conference via Zoom.

According to Leones, two sand-filled geotubes with a diameter of two meters were installed to mitigate soil erosion, prevent storm damage and provide stability to the project.

The use of geotextile tube system is more economical than the traditional method of constructing a breakwater, he added.

In the same virtual presser, Manila Bay Operations Center Head and DENR Assistant Secretary Daniel Darius Nicer said there is no definitive proof that any substantial portion of the dolomite beach has been washed away based on beach area and volume measurement.

Nicer noted that the alleged “washing away” of the dolomite sand was only based on the perceived discoloration of some portions of the white beach as observed from a distance.

“Due to the natural wave action of wash and backwash, greyish sand, stones, rocks and other materials piled up over the dolomite sand,” Nicer said, as he explained why certain portions of the white beach to look darker in shade.

Based on the inspection conducted by DENR experts, Nicer said around 9 to 10 inches of various sediments were found on top of the dolomite overlay.

Nicer also clarified that Dolomite Mining Corp. (DMC), which supplied the artificial white sand, has been in operation for almost two decades now, dispelling allegations that it was created for the sole purpose of supplying dolomite for the project.

In fact, DMC was first issued permit to operate at Barangay Pugalo in Alcoy town, Cebu province in November 2002, Nicer said.

For his part, DENR Undersecretary and Spokesperson Benny D. Antiporda slammed critics for persistently accusing the DENR of polluting Manila Bay with the white sand project.

“Is there anything far worse than basura? Is there anything far more hazardous than basura?” Antiporda asked.

He added: “We cleaned it (Manila Bay) up. We took off the dirty sand and silt, even the garbage there. Pinalitan namin ng malinis na buhangin, nilagyan ng white sand sa ibabaw.”

Contrary to what critics claim, Antiporda said the project was meant to “protect the environment, protect the people who traverse Roxas Boulevard, and make Manila Bay and the Baywalk area beautiful again.”

“We don’t think we are there to destroy our environment. Hindi para sa amin ýan, para sa mga susunod na henerasyon pa ýan,” he said.

Antiporda said the beach nourishment project is an initiative not just by the DENR, but all other agencies that are part of the Manila Bay Task Force formed in 2019 by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte under Administrative Order No. 16.

The members of the DENR-led task force were the same agencies directed to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay in the writ of continuing mandamus issued by the Supreme Court in 2008.

Antiporda said noted environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa, who initiated the case that led to the high tribunal issuing the writ of continuing mandamus, “ay kasama po namin sa aming mga pagpapasya at sa aming mga ginagawa.”

The DENR official said the DENR’s pool of experts—including marine scientists, biologists and geologists—are working on the project, and the agency welcomes a third party to conduct an audit.

Antiporda insisted that of the P389 million allotted for the entire Manila Bay rehabilitation project, only 6 percent or P28 million was spent for the dolomite overlay.

He said other issues such as planting of mangrove, protection of the ecosystem and biodiversity, fishing areas, and improvement of water quality are all being addressed simultaneously by the DENR and its partner agencies. #