Panelo: COVID-19 should not hinder gov’t projects

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo | Philstar.com photo

CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Wednesday, September 9, said the novel coronavirus pandemic should not stop the government from implementing its projects as he defended the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Manila Bay ‘white sand’ project.

He reiterated that a budget has been specifically allotted for it, even before the global health crisis started.

“Meron na ngang budget dati dun, meron din tayong budget sa COVID-19 (There has been a budget allocated for the project, there’s also a budget for COVID-19),” Panelo said.

He also stressed that the country has to work around the pandemic.

“Hindi pupuwedeng tayong kadenahan nito, maging sagabal sa ating ginagawa sa araw-araw. Hindi pupuwede yung takot mangibabaw sa’tin na hindi na tayo makagalaw (It should not chain us, it should not hinder our daily activities. We cannot allow fear to prevent us from doing anything),” Panelo said.

The DENR on Sept. 3 confirmed that piles of crushed dolomite were being poured on the stretch of Manila Bay’s shore to act as white sand and beautify the area.

The makeover project, which will fill 500 meters of the baywalk with white sand, is covered under the P389-million Manila Bay rehabilitation program launched by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu in January last year.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, for his part, maintained that the dolomites used to beautify the stretch of Manila Bay’s shore are safe following claims of its potential health hazard.

“It is not listed by the Mines Safety and Health Association, Occupational Safety and Health Association or even in the International Agency for Research of Cancer as a carcinogen,” he said during the budget deliberation of the DENR before the House committee on appropriations.

Cimatu explained that the hazardous ones are the dolomite dust particles with the size of 10 to 15 microns.

He then pointed out that the size of the dolomites being used in Manila Bay is 2,000 to 5,000 microns or 100 times bigger than dust.

“Therefore, [they are] not suspended in air and it cannot be inhaled,” he said.

The Department of Health has also confirmed that the artificial white sand will not pose a serious health risk to the public.

“In terms of the general safety of the public who will be enjoying the shoreline once permitted, DOH assures that no untoward incidents will occur as a result of this endeavor,” it said Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, said the white sand project will prevent soil erosion and flooding.

“Itong ginawa po nila, ito po ay tinatawag na beach enhancement, so hindi lang po ito pagpapaganda. Itong beach enhancement pong ito ay para po maiwasan ang soil erosion at para makatulong din po sa flood control (What they’re doing is called beach enhancement, so it’s not just beautification. This beach enhancement is also to prevent soil erosion and help flood control),” he said.

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