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Think tank urges COA audit of DENR’s Manila Bay white sand project

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 9/8/2020 TINA PANGANIBAN-PEREZ,GMA News
Despite opposition from various groups, the DENR's project to cover the Manila Bay beachfront with crushed dolomite continues on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the project covers three hectares. © Tina Panganiban-Perez Despite opposition from various groups, the DENR's project to cover the Manila Bay beachfront with crushed dolomite continues on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the project covers three hectares.

Public policy think tank Infrawatch PH on Tuesday called on the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit into the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' controversial Manila Bay “white sand” project.

Infrawatch convenor Terry Ridon suspects the project to be overpriced by as much as 55%.

Ridon told GMA News that based on current market prices, the project should cost only about P200 million, and not P389 million as previously stated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“I think we can lead to that conclusion kung hindi po maglilinaw ang DENR doon sa actual costing nitong proyektong ito. Dapat mag-intervene na po 'yung Commission on Audit. Magkaroon na po ng actual special audit diyan para tingnan na ho nila. Baka naman sobra talaga yan kasi it’s not difficult to assess,” Ridon said.

Infrawatch also questioned the project’s lack of an Environmental Compliance Certificate.

“Paano ngayon sasabihin ng DENR na 'hindi kami kasali diyan' eh 'yung ECC makes no distinction whether it’s an actual project or it’s just a beach nourishment. So dapat kumuha ho sila ng ECC. Kung wala kang ECC, dapat hindi magpatuloy 'yan. It should stop today,” Ridon said.

Infrawatch also said the project should be temporarily stopped to assess its impact on the environment and on people’s health, citing reports that dolomite may be harm the respiratory system.

Ridon said their group is prepared to write the Manila Bay Advisory Committee to seek intervention and to file a case.

“We would want them to intervene initially at this point. Pero siyempre, if they will say na I think it would be better to have an actual case, then we will do it as soon as we reach that point,” he added.

'Moral ascendancy'

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, for his part, questioned Ridon’s “moral ascendancy” to criticize the project.

“When he became chairman of PCUP [Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor], sumobra 'yung biyahe niya. Hindi niya yata nabilang kaya siya natanggal. So I don't think he has the moral ascendancy to count something,” Antiporda told GMA News.

Antiporda also said that the white sand project is aboveboard.

“Corruption will not be permitted and will not be tolerated by this administration,” he said.

Antiporda also said that an ECC was not needed for the project.

“This is just a nourishment project, this is just a rehabilitation project. This is not a reclamation or construction. Hindi ho kailangan 'yan ng ECC. Nourishment lang po yan. Kumbaga dati na po yan. Pinaganda lang,” he stressed. — BM, GMA News

This article Think tank urges COA audit of DENR’s Manila Bay white sand project was originally published in GMA News Online.

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