Manila Bay White Sand Could Cost P795,000 Per Meter... Manila Bay Is 500 Meters Long
According to Infrawatch PH, a think tank focused on infrastructure projects, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) controversial white sand project along Manila Bay most likely costs P795,000… per meter. The beach is 500 meters long, so the total calculation for the entire project could be a whopping P397,500,000.
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The approved budget for the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program (baywalk area) is reportedly P397,897,000, said Teddy Ridon of Infrawatch PH who also happens to be the former urban poor chief of the Duterte administration.
“For comparison, the average cost of a two-lane road is around P25 million to P30 million per kilometer. The same amount can also fund a month’s social amelioration funding for almost 80,000 vulnerable families,” said Ridon.
The lawyer urges DENR to publicly state the costs of the project to prove there has been no overpricing or suspicious activity in the purchase of the “white sand.”
“The unit cost of dolomite sand should be no more than P600 per metric ton (or no more than the total amount of P56.977 million for 62,100 cu. meters), which is the highest retail price recorded by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in 2017. The current market price of dolomite sand is P469.50 per metric ton. Anything more will lead the public to believe that the project is not only a health hazard, but also overpriced,” said Ridon.
Fake White Sand Could be a Health Hazard
Aside from the worrying costs, the material DENR chose to replicate white sand can reportedly lead to health hazards. Dolomite, the material used, can be detrimental to human health if exposed in large amounts. Its effects include irritation, burning, and redness of the eye; dry and irritated skin, coughing and irritation of the lungs, and in extreme cases, silicosis, bronchitis, emphysema, and cancer.
“Dolomite sand has typically been used for as: auxiliary materials for iron and steel, plate glass for construction materials, automotive glass, fertilizer, soil conditioner. Nothing in this list mentions dolomite as viable for use as artificial sand for beaches. So why is DENR insisting that there is nothing irregular about using dolomite sand in Manila Bay?” said Ridon, who also pointed out that the Philippines is battling a health crisis right now: COVID-19.
DENR’s Project is ‘Worse Than Plunder’
“The last time white sand was on the news, a former President was convicted of plunder. DENR’s white sand project is worse than plunder, because the project’s use of dolomite sand as beach top-fill causes cancer, lung failure, and other serious illnesses,” said Ridon.
The excessive costs of the project, which Infrawatch calls purely “cosmetic,” are also concerning given the fact that this comes at a time of deep financial crises for the country.
“This is not a good sight, given government’s inadequate funding to confront the coronavirus crisis. Because harmful white sandy beaches will certainly not put food in the mouths of our most vulnerable families,” noted Ridon.