Dolomite sand not the solution to Manila Bay's solid waste problem — environmentalists

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 16) – Some environmentalists argued the overlaying of dolomite sand along a portion of Manila Bay is not the solution to its solid waste management problem.

Prof. Marlon Pareja, an educator and scientist from De La Salle University - Dasmarinas said the dolomite beach project has nothing to do with reducing solid waste floating at the iconic bay.

"Kung sasabihin ng government na mare-reduce ang solid waste because of the dumping of the dolomite, puwede ko pong sabihin na wala siyang [kinalaman] kasi it's not part of the whole process of solid waste collection. Hindi po siya efficient as far as solid waste collection is concerned," Pareja said.

[Translation: If the government would insist that solid waste will be reduced because of the dumping of the dolomite, I can say it's not related because it's not part of the whole process of solid waste collection. It is not efficient as far as solid waste collection is concerned.]

Backhoes were seen dumping fresh batches of crushed dolomite along the baywalk the past few days.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier said this is part of the government's P389-million "white sand" project to rehabilitate the area.

DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones earlier confirmed to CNN Philippines they will reopen the so-called Dolomite Beach to the public by the third quarter provided quarantine restrictions have already eased.

Leones added they will put strict protocols in place to ensure the preservation of what they deem as a Boracay-like beach in Manila.

He said people can only visit at certain hours during the day and no one is allowed to stay overnight at the beach.

The official also responded to critics who have been saying they're only focusing on the beach as their way of rehabilitating Manila Bay.

"Sabihin ko lang sa mamamayan natin, hindi lang ito [Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program] nakafocus sa Manila Bay mismo, but in all of tributaries, esteros, ina-address na rin po natin 'yang problema na 'yan," Leones said.

[Translation: I'll assure our citizens that the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program is not just focused solely on Manila Bay, but in all of its tributaries and estuaries. We are addressing problems related to that.]

Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition national coordinator, however, said there are lots of trash deep down the waters of Manila Bay for the government to even bother about the baywalk's "cosmetic beautification."

She added government must focus on reducing solid waste and creating alternative delivery systems for better garbage collection in areas near the Manila Bay.

"We do not need this cosmetic beautification para lang sa isang beach nourishment [project]. Ito kasi ay magpapabalik-balik lang," Lucero said. "Sa ilalim ng Manila Bay, marami ring basura at nadaragdagan pa lalo ng basura dahil marami pa dahil wala namang national ban para rito sa mga single-use plastic."

[Translation: We do not need this cosmetic beautification for a beach nourishment (project). The garbage will just keep going back. Beneath the waters of the Manila Bay, there are many waste and it keeps adding up because there is no national ban on single-use plastics.]

Both Pareja and Lucero have suggested to the government to focus on developing and implementing an "accurate and science-informed" National Waste Recovery Plan as framed in the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

They added policy makers should shift their focus to recovery and reduction of solid wastes rather than end-of-pipe solutions such as cleanup drives.

"Cleanup is a waste of money actually kasi ang tingin ng tao eh okay lang na magkalat ako, mayroon naman na magki-cleanup so it's not sustainable. Kung lalagyan natin siya ng isang batas na nagbabawal ng mga single use [plastics] na dinidispose nila, tinatapon lang kung saan, kung ie-enforce natin 'yung RA 9003, hindi natin kailangan mag-cleanup."

[Translation: Cleanup is a waste of money actually because people can perceive that it's okay to litter since it will be cleaned, so it's not sustainable. We don't need a cleanup if there is a law banning single-use (plastics), proper waste disposal, and proper enforcement of RA 9003.]