By Tracy Cabrera
WHAT was intended to beautify Manila’s bay front into a world-class beach area with the dumping of crushed dolomite rock has turned out to be something that environment officials did not expect as the once white material has been stained and blackened by dirt and tidal waters.
And according to scientists from the University of the Philippines, instead of overlaying Manila Bay’s shoreline with dolomite, the government should invest in rehabilitating mangroves as part of the solutions to its pollution woes.
In a statement, the UP Diliman Institute of Biology expressed its willingness to assist the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in forming and implementing a science-based rehabilitation program rather than the questionable measure it has initiated to improve conditions of the heavily polluted bay.
This program, the scientists said, would target the recovery of the bay’s biological functions and services by restoring and protecting key habitats, reducing pollution and managing invasive species.
“January 2019 was declared the official start of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program, which had three phases, namely cleanup/water quality improvement, rehabilitation and settlement and education and sustainment,” the institute disclosed.
“The recent project involving the use of dolomite sand does not address any of these,” it added.
The UP scientists pointed out that the ‘project’ that has been implemented is “even more detrimental” to the existing biodiversity, as well as communities in the area.
Government officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte himself and foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., have welcomed the P389-million ‘beach nourishment’ project, saying it was a “stroke of genius.”
But environmentalists insisted it would not solve Manila Bay’s persisting problems, branding it an expensive beautification effort that will go kaput eventually.
“Among those who will suffer from the costly project are the migratory and resident water birds that use the whole stretch of the bay as their feeding, resting, roosting and breeding areas,” the UP Institute of Biology stressed.
“The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds, thereby reducing their habitat. Any habitat reduction or loss will reduce opportunities for migratory birds to feed and refuel on their migration journey,” it said.
“Mangrove rehabilitation, on the other hand, is a cheaper nature-based solution that can contribute in biodiversity conservation and in climate change adaptation. Having ecologically healthy mangroves will also help lessen heavy metal contamination, a condition that beset Manila Bay for a long time,” the institute enthused.
As a final word, the scientists noted that the recent effort of dumping crushed dolomite on a reclaimed part of Manila Bay is not the best way of spending government money.
“(Amidst the coronavirus pandemic we face today,) money is now a critical resource . . . that could have been put to better use by spending for the needs of medical front-liners and the millions of our hungry fellow Filipinos,” they concluded.