A project for the ages


    ‘Then again maybe those who flocked to the area this weekend to take photos will also flock to the area at the height of the storm surge to make sure the dolomite isn’t carried by the water onto the boulevard.’

    THIS project is going to last beyond the lifetime of this administration. Maybe even beyond our lifetimes.

    This is what DENR USec Benny Antiporda was effectively saying in an interview about the so-called “Manila Bay Sands” project that has been controversial lately, so much so that the public has forgotten (hopefully temporarily) the mega-stink in PhilHealth and the curious recommendation by the Senate to sue everyone except the Secretary of Health. Curious, because the Secretary, whom I love to call “Dr. Faulty,” is and has been the chairman of the Board of PhilHealth and clearly was not doing his job when all these shenanigans were happening under his very nose.

    Of course, we know that Dr. Faulty is no Superman, and as the former PhilHealth CEO said even Superman wouldn’t be able to clean up the agency; yet if we believe in transparency and accountability and the principle of command responsibility then the free pass that Dr. Faulty keeps getting from his boss is just further proof that the way this administration is handling scandals involving its allies is based on the principle that “my friend is innocent so don’t even try to prove him guilty.”

    Thank God for the Manila Bay Sands project that has done wonders for my mental health.

    It’s helped hone my creativity and critical thinking skills and I have the DENR to thank for that, especially Usec Antiporda. My mind was on overdrive when he cited as one reason for the project the fact that many of our countrymen can’t afford to go to Boracay to see its white sand, so why not give them a white sand experience?

    Sort of if Mohammed cannot afford go to the mountain then bring the mountain to Mohammed. Or something like that.

    We could, of course, have packed Boracay sand in small vials and distributed them as part of the Bayanihan ayuda and it would even be authentic white sand but then Metro Manilans would not have the opportunity to walk on it and take photos as the sun was setting. Which they were able to do in record numbers over the weekend, in “mañanita” fashion – meaning, forgetting social distancing – because they were all so happy mentally that all their cares about COVID-19 and PhilHealth were blown away.

    But the good undersecretary is correct. The task given to the DENR by PRRD, which is to clean up Manila Bay, is not one that can be done overnight. Nor, to sound Kennedyesque, in the next thousand days or in the life of this administration. In fact, as Usec Antiporda points out, cleaning Manila Bay will take generations — just as it took generations to pollute it and stink it up to the point where it is now.

    It’s no surprise that the Usec has expressed his wish that the project be continued by the next administration. But the wish was coupled by a threat: he himself would lead demonstrations should the next President decide to scrap the project because “that would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

    Actually, that remains the bone of contention – whether “importing” dolomite from the hills of Cebu and dumping them on a part of the Roxas Boulevard Baywalk IS wise use of taxpayers’ money. For sure it is some form of beautification, but does it address the root of the problem of the bay? Or is it a Potemkinish project, one that masks the real issue, which is the conversion of the bay into the cesspool of Metro Manila and parts of Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan?

    I guess what is needed here is the science – again we go back to the science – to answer the basic question: what is the problem of Manila Bay and what is the route to the solution? I am not scientist but I don’t think the problem of the bay is lack of white sand on Baywalk.

    Worse, images of storm surges along Roxas Boulevard, with bay waters pounding the Baywalk and causing flooding all over the place, make me wonder what will happen to the imported dolomite when the next storm comes? Then again maybe those who flocked to the area this weekend to take photos will also flock to the area at the height of the storm surge to make sure the dolomite isn’t carried by the water onto the boulevard. Otherwise they’d clog even the drainage pipes and may cause bigger issues as a result.

    James Carville may have put it this way “it’s the stinking water, stupid!” just to point us in the right direction. And yes, taking the stink out of the bay waters is, as the Usec points out, a project for the ages. Then so be it. Let that be the main focus of our spending taxpayers’ money.

    The beautification can follow, even if it only happens ages from now.