LIST: What the P389 Million for Manila Bay's White Sand Could Have Bought Instead

Such as subsidy for around 80,000 families, said VP Leni Robredo.

( So the project to cover part of Manila Bay with white sand just keeps getting weirder and weirder—for lack of a better term—with every update. It turns out around P389 million was allocated for the white sand project, which is really just a small factor of the overall rehabilitation of Manila Bay; an endeavor that has been in the works since the '90s and had to be ratified by a Supreme Court order in 2008.

Since then, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been cleaning up the bay and its waters, enough to get it safe enough to actually swim in. Remember when they suspended several restaurants, the Aristocrat included, for making the bay their dumping ground in 2019? Bringing in the white sand to cover a gray strip of beach is just one way they're making the place more enticing, we suppose, but why it's happening now—coupled with that hefty price tag—is beyond us.


It's hard not to frown on the white-sand situation when, as pointed out by Vice President Leni Robredo in her weekly radio show on RMN on September 6, that money could have been used to help out around 80,000 families most affected by the pandemic. "At almost P400 million, sa P5,000 pesos, mga 80,000 families matutulungan sa isang buwan," noted the vice president.

"Sa akin, parang maling mensahe. Nagsasabi kayong walang pera tapos nakikita 'yong ganito," noted Robredo, possibly referring to the times President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned that the government has no more funds, whether for distance learning gadgets or aid during the pandemic in general, during his late night addresses.

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Instead, the government is using funds to make Manila Bay nice to look at—for our mental health, too, as Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque said over the weekend. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has pointed out that the allocated funds cannot be transferred and used for other things. "Siguro kung pera lang ito na puwede nating i-juggle from one place to another, gagawin po ng gobyerno. But hindi po maaari iyan. Bawal po iyon," Benny Antiporda, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary, was quoted as saying by ABS-CBN

Still, these are extraordinary circumstances and as the old saying goes, "Kung gusto, may paraan; kung ayaw, palaging may dahilan." To put things into perspective, we list down a few other things we could have used the P389 million for—aside from fake, white sand in Manila Bay.

  • As VP Robredo said, subsidy for 80,000 families hit hardest by the pandemic
  • Around 19,450 laptops for students, at P20,000 each
  • or Internet subsidy for 389,000 teachers, at P1,000 each
  • Better yet: LTE Pocket Wifi for around 389,000 teachers and students at P1,000 each
  • Heck, why not gaming laptops for 389 teachers at P100,000 each? Still would have been a better investment than sand, TBH.
  • Around 216,000 PPE sets, at P1,800 each (same price for the sets bought by the Department of Health)
  • Swab tests for nearly 65,000 people, pegged at P6,000 each
  • A big fat bonus—or better yet, a higher salary—for our healthcare workers
  • More free shuttle services not just for healthcare workers, but all workers in open industries
  • How about a bike-sharing program in Metro Manila's busiest districts?

Main image by Jerome Ascano

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