Sep 7, 2020

Manila Bay’s new “white sand” could be dangerous to our health, and even Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire says so.

Stirring controversy recently, it was revealed that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been pursuing a white sand dumping project in Manila Bay. This white sand is made of Cebu-sourced pulverized dolomite rocks, which are made of calcium magnesium carbonate.

During an online forum, Vergeire said that dolomite dust can cause respiratory problems when inhaled. “Kapag napunta sa mata, nagkakaroon ng irritation so you just have to wash it off with water,” said the DOH official.

“Kapag na-ingest ito, it can have discomfort sa gastrointestinal system natin and magkakaroon lang ng kaunting sakit ng tiyan at pagtatae,” she added.

According to DOH, people who want to visit Manila Bay would have to follow minimum public health standards, like wearing face masks, to avoid inhaling dolomite dust. 

However, Vergeire said that DENR would have studied the project before giving it clearance. “Hindi naman ipapatupad ng DENR yan kung hindi nila napag-aralan na this will cause harm to the environment and also to our people,” said the DOH undersecretary.

Aside from its potential health hazards, the pulverized dolomite rock project in Manila Bay was also criticized by local environmental organizations for the serious ecological damage that it can cause.

[READ: Manila Bay’s new, pristine ‘white sand’ can do some serious ecological damage]

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo voiced her dismay over the project’s ill-timing, especially since it cost the government P349 million which could have been used for COVID-19 response instead.

“Parang iyong news items, plano pa ito since 2019. Pero sa akin, parang napaka-insensitive na gagawin mo iyan sa height ng pandemic, na ang daming nagugutom. Ang daming naghihirap, gagawin mo iyong pag-beautify,” said Robredo.

“Ang isa sa mga suggestions ko, na iyong mga pinakamahihirap na pamilya, bigyan sana ng parang pantawid-buhay man lang. Ang suggestion ko nga, 5,000 [pesos] to the poorest families habang naka-lockdown pa tayo. Ang sagot nila, walang pera. Parang sa akin, maling mensahe: Nagsasabi kayong walang pera, tapos nakikita iyong ganito,” she added.

During a press briefing today, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, “Ito ay kabahagi ng budget for 2020, inaprubahan ito 2019. ‘Di natin inasahan na magkakaroon ng COVID-19. Pag yan ay nasa line item, yan lang ang pwede pag gamitan ng pondo.”

According to Roque, the artificial sand is part of DENR’s moves to prevent soil erosion and serve as flood control in Manila Bay. 

“Natutuwa ako na may magandang attraction dito sa Manila. Kaming taga-Maynila ay kailangan magkaroon ng access sa magandang beach ngayong panahon na di pwede,” he added.

 

Header photo from Inquirer.net

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TAGS: dolomite dust dolomite dust health hazards dolomite rocks dolomite sand manila bay manila bay white sand