It seems the dolomite drama still isn't over.
On Thursday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) stifled the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Biology's earlier suggestion of building mangroves instead of overlaying artificial white sand to help rehabilitate Manila Bay.
This followed the heavy rains affecting the landscape of the recently flattened shore, a project that saw dolomite rocks being mined and exported from Cebu. The project has caused a stir among concerned citizens, many of whom pointed out the P389 million budget should have gone to COVID-19-related projects instead.
"In the first place, all of the projects here in Manila Bay has their own place. The mangroves are located in Bataan, in Cavite, and in Baseco area wherein we have our wetlands. You cannot put it in the middle of the baywalk area wherein it would destroy the landscape. Hindi ho magandang tignan," DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said in a televised briefing aired over PTV4 on Wednesday.
"At the same time, hindi po mabubuhay dito sa lugar na to yun pong mangroves," he added.
Antiporda also denied reports of the dolomite sand along Manila Bay washing out from the rains. He explained that it was black sand from the bay covering the dolomite, now at around two to three inches thick.
“Sa madaling salita, wala pong nawash-out, hindi po nabasawan yung ating white dolomite. Nadagdagan po tayo ng black sand galing sa ilalim ng dagat,” he said.
In the same briefing, Antiporda hit UP to help the government in other ways other than criticizing.
"Yung mga nagkokomento, baka pwede muna silang magtanong sa DENR bago sila magkomento," he said.
If an offer to help ensues from the institution, Antiporda said DENR would welcome it "as long as it's for free."
Off topic, he mentioned that the agency has undergone consultations with the state university since 2016—which has amounted to half a billion pesos.
"Base po sa pag-aaral ng inyong lingkod, kalahating bilyon po ang binayaran namin sa kanila, simula 2016 hanggang taong ito," he claimed.
These consultations, he said, should have been for free as UP is a state university.
"Ang UP po sa pagkakaaalam po natin ay libre dapat yan," he said. "Bakit kayo naniningil sa gobyerno, matapos kayong pag-aralin ng taong bayan? Matapos kayong maging iskolar ng taong bayan? Sisipsipin nyo ang dugo ng taong bayan sa dami ng kinuha nyong pondo? Tapos ngayon, gumagawa kami ng maganda, kailangang magbayad kami sa inyo? Wag naman."
"Hindi nyo karapatang batikusin ito dahil bayaran kayo," he stressed. "Yun lang ho ang masasabi ko sa UP. Uulit-ulitin ko, bayaran kayo."
UP earlier proposed forming a science-based rehab program to aid in the recovery and restoration of Manila Bay.
The Manila Bay rehabilitation program started in January 2019, with three phases: cleanup/water quality improvement, rehabilitation and settlement, and education and sustainment.
The university, however, said the recent use of dolomite "does not address" any of the issues, saying it's even "more detrimental" than helpful.
Reports have earlier said that Cebu province didn't approve the extraction of dolomite from Cebu. The DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, however, reportedly allowed it.
Photos by Edd Gumban