Civil society organization Oceana is urging the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to immediately order its contractor to stop the dumping of new loads of crushed dolomite on the baywalk area of the Manila Bay.
The group’s call come on the heels of news that a fresh coat of dolomite sand has been placed in Manila Bay early Wednesday morning. Several backhoe operators have been seen pouring and levelling crushed dolomite rocks.
Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo-Ramos pointed out that “instead of tending to the flawed beautification project of Manila Bay, the government needs to prioritize the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on its people. What is happening now is appalling. People need to be protected from this alarming fast transmission of COVID-19 and rising number of deaths from the virus. The poor need subsidy because of loss of income and worried that their family will die not only from COVID but from hunger.”
The UP Marine Science Institute, in a statement in September 2020, pointed out that the “dolomite sand will only erode, given the hydrodynamic conditions of the bay. Even with the breakwater off the baywalk area, rising level seas and larger waves during typhoons especially with climate change can penetrate and pound the baywalk area. Continuously replacing the sand will be even more expensive.”
Estenzo-Ramos emphasized that the project is just a “band-aid” solution. “Dolomite dumped in the area from September to December 2020 has already been reclaimed by the sea. From December 2020 to February 2021, this dolomite beach has eroded by at least 300 square meters. They are refilling it again and even extending the area,” she said.
She also demanded that an Environmental Impact Assessment be conducted on the project, despite claims by DENR that will not conduct any such study considering that it is a “beautification project and will be beneficial to the environment.
“What the project contractors are doing is reclaiming parts of Manila Bay. Any kind of land reclamation would result in the large displacement of the marine sediments and the development of mud-waves beneath the reclamation fill,” Oceana’s Estenzo-Ramos said.
Manila Bay is a Key Biodiversity Area identified by the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and a sardine spawning ground identified by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources through the National Fisheries Research Development Institute. It is the spawning ground of the Fringescale Sardinella, Sardinella Fimbriata[SJ1] , with high biomass concentration in the Metro Manila area.
Critics and the public have slammed the project, questioning its necessity and costs as the Philippines continues to struggle against controlling the spread of COVID-19.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Public Works and Highways have defended their decision to dump crushed dolomite along the Manila Bay shore, saying it serves as an "enhancer" for the beautification project in the area.
Oceana’s Estenzo-Ramos said this million-peso dolomite dumping on Manila Bay will not help solve the root of its environmental problems, which is poor water quality.
“Instead, efforts can be directed to solving the environmental problems, which include: reducing chemical, organic and plastic pollution; installing water treatment facilities; banning the cutting of mangroves, and rehabilitating degraded areas; stopping conversion of mangroves and wetlands through reclamation projects; protecting critical habitats such as mangroves and wetlands and declare them as protected areas; improving management of protected areas such as the Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, and establishing formally the Fisheries Management Area for a holistic, science-based decision making on fisheries management,” she added.