Acne problems cannot be solved by merely applying makeup — one should undergo a series of both internal and external treatments to be cured from it. You can temporarily hide it with cosmetics but at the end of the day, it’s still there.

The same goes for the waters of Manila Bay. It cannot be cleaned by merely dumping white sand, or to be more specific, extracted dolomite sand from Cebu. Without addressing the root causes that pollute these waters, this beautification is nothing but a weak attempt to temporarily solve a decade’s worth of problem instead of providing a more sustainable rehabilitation.

Beach nourishment projects exist as a means of protecting coastal economic interests like in the case of the Palm Islands in Dubai. The island is constructed from the sands dredged on the seafloor near the island and regularly maintained by layering more sand.

In the case of Manila Bay, the sand used for the beach nourishment are “fake” sands — crushed dolomites extracted from another island. Knowing that the beachfront is prone to flooding, these fake sands can be simply washed off from the shores making it a total waste.

The use of crushed dolomites to layer a stretch of the beachfront can pose serious health risks. Citing medical researches, the Department of Health (DOH) said that the dolomite sand used can cause adverse effects in the respiratory system when inhaled.

The goal of the rehabilitation is for the waters to be safer. To use these dolomite sands to cover up a portion of the beachfront becomes counterproductive.

Over the years, programs have existed for the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay. While the artificial alteration of the landscape can be good, it is still unsustainable and expensive in nature especially in this time and situation.

Addressing more pressing concerns in the ecological situation of the bay should instead be the focus if the goal is to rehabilitate it in the long run. More programs that heed to the call of science should be prioritized.

However, this “white sand” project is still justified for the aesthetic purposes it serves — helping the boost of tourism. Some also believe that this is somehow a cheaper way for people who do not have the means to travel and experience luxury beaches such as Boracay.

This project gives people the sense of easy accessibility. Having this mindset is similar to admiring replicas of world landmarks in various localities, but that’s just about it; ornamental yet useless.

Other officials behind the project also reiterate that this project instills discipline in people in managing their waste. They believe that this transformation from a black and grey sand to a pure and white one will magically change people’s behavior overnight about waste management.

It will not. In 2018, Boracay was closed down due to environmental concerns brought about by human activities. To think that this sudden beautification of the bay will instill such values is too much of a naive assumption.

Some argue that this project is one way of solving the problem because instead of watching trash pile up, having white sand is a sight to behold. Assuming that they are right, the timing and cost of this project is still questionable.

The cost of this “beach nourishment” is roughly estimated at 389 million pesos for a mere 500-meter long beach area. That means a meter costs about 778 thousand pesos. With a micro perspective, this project is unjustified and only decorative at best.

For a country that is supposedly lacking resources, doing this project in the middle of a pandemic is insensitive.

To prioritize a project as pretentious as this “beautification” over the dire needs of the country is a huge slap to the people who are fighting against COVID-19. The budget could have helped a lot of struggling families. It could have bought more sets of PPE and test kits for the health workers — yet the project still pushed through.

Now, it is up to us to ask and decide if this expensive beautification project is more important than addressing the problems of millions of struggling families and the pleas of our health workers.

For me, one thing is for sure. When everything else is settled and hopefully back to normal, the intention of the “white sand” project can be prioritized but in a more sustainable and ecological way.

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