The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Saturday defended the Manila Bay beautification project, saying crushed dolomite did not pose health hazards to the public.

“We urge the critics to study the issue first before they make baseless allegations against worthwhile government projects. We welcome any investigation into this project whether in the courts of justice or in the court of public opinion. All this criticism is misplaced,” Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.

Critics raised environmental and health concerns over the use of crushed dolomite boulders in Manila Bay’s coast. The project’s timing was also questioned, as it coincided with anti-Covid-19 efforts.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año echoed the Department of Health’s (DOH) assurance that the crushed dolomite particles used in Manila Bay were 100 times bigger than dust.

“[The DOH] has already clearly stated that the dolomite used… doesn’t get suspended in air and therefore is not harmful to individuals. Once the project is completed, we invite the public to enjoy the rehabilitated and nourished beach and see for themselves if it is harmful,” Año said.

Of the project’s P389 million in funding, only P28 million was used for the dolomite boulders.

“That already covers the price of dolomite sand, transportation cost, taxes, and other fees. That’s the package of the cost including delivery from Cebu to Manila Bay. It’s not P389 million but P28 million,” Malaya said.

The beautification project was approved by Congress under the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

According to Malaya, the government cannot simply halt a project as it was already under contractual obligation to proceed.

The DILG also said the project did not take away funds intended for the country’s Covid-19 response.

“This was sourced from the 2019 GAA, the funds for COVID are in the 2020 GAA, Bayanihan 1 and now Bayanihan 2; hence, this project has no effect whatsoever on government’s Covid response,” Malaya said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro