President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night praised Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for spearheading the Manila Bay rehabilitation project, which included the controversial dumping of crushed dolomite boulders along its coastline.

“Let us begin by congratulating Secretary Cimatu. You know, I remember that meeting and I think everybody was there when I said, ‘Roy, kaya mong linisin ‘to?’ And his answer was a very curtly given, he said, “Kaya kong trabahuhin,’” Duterte said.

“Now, people now are really enjoying the reclaimed area with the white sand maski na papaano,” he added.

Duterte made the statement after tourists flocked to see Manila Bay’s artificial “white sand” coastline over the weekend.

He called out critics of the P389-million project and said it was the best the government could do in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Wala naman talaga tayong magawa. You do it, may masabi sila. You do not do it, may masabi si Leni. What do you want us to do?” he said.

“Ang problema kasi [dito sa] white sand ‘yung magsabi that we are not doing enough. What can we do with the germ that’s flying around? It’s the microbe that can’t be controlled,” he added.

Dumping crushed dolomite rocks was part of the clean-up phase of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program.

Malacañang has defended the project, saying funds for it were approved prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque also said it would help alleviate Metro Manila’s flooding problem and “provide mental health benefits.” John Ezekiel J. Hirro