Robredo slams gov’t for prioritizing Manila Bay white sand over aid for poor families
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo has questioned the government’s ‘insensitive’ move to put white sand on Manila Bay when it cannot provide financial aid to the poorest families as she suggested.
Robredo said during her radio program on Sunday that the government sends a wrong message with the physical beautification of Manila Bay, which comes as the country’s economy is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even if the plan to place white sand on Manila Bay’s shores along Roxas Boulevard is an old one, the Vice President believes it is wrong to prioritize this amid a health crisis that has placed a lot of people’s livelihood and health at risk.
“Parang iyong news items, plano pa ito since 2019. Pero sa akin, parang napaka-insensitive na gagawin mo iyan sa height ng pandemic, na ang daming nagugutom. Ang daming naghihirap, gagawin mo iyong pag-beautify,” Robredo said.
(I saw in the news items that this was a plan since 2019. But for me, it seems insensitive to do that at the height of a pandemic, where a lot is going hungry. A lot are struggling, but you prioritize beautification?)
“[…] Ang isa sa mga suggestions ko, na iyong mga pinakamahihirap na pamilya, bigyan sana ng parang pantawid-buhay man lang. Ang suggestion ko nga, 5,000 [pesos] to the poorest families habang naka-lockdown pa tayo. Ang sagot nila, walang pera. Parang sa akin, maling mensahe: Nagsasabi kayong walang pera, tapos nakikita iyong ganito,” she added.
(One of my suggestions was to give the poorest families assistance that could make them stay afloat. My suggestion was to give P5,000 to the poorest families while we are still on lockdown. They said there is no money. But for me, this sends a wrong message as you said we have no money, but you can do these things.)
During her public address last August 24, Robredo urged the government to provide at least a P5,000 monthly assistance to the poorest families affected by the pandemic. It was one of several suggestions she made, aside from calls to empower workers and micro, small, and medium enterprises.
However, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said a day after that such provisions are not feasible since the government’s funds are already dwindling.
READ: Empower workers, MSMEs to help revive economy – Robredo
READ: P5K monthly cash aid to poorest Filipinos? ‘Not feasible,’ Palace says
If the government decided to place the funds used to place the ‘white sand’ or dolomite at Manila Bay — amounting to P349 million — to give P5,000 aid, Robredo said that 80,000 families would have benefitted for at least a month.
Several observers believe that the budget used by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) could have been used to purchase gadgets that students doing online classes might need. For some, it could have been converted for the government’s COVID-19 response.
READ: Funds for Manila Bay’s white sand project could have aided COVID-hit sectors – Villanueva
Experts on the other hand said that there are several health concerns that come with dolomite sand, as it may contain harmful heavy metals like lead and mercury.
READ: Critics see red in Manila Bay’s ‘white sand’ makeover
For Robredo, the P349 million could also have produced enough medical checkups for teachers doing online classes — especially since a Department of Education official admitted that it cannot shoulder the COVID-19 treatment of infected teachers.
READ: Teachers’ group urges DepEd: Pay for COVID-19 treatment
“Halimbawa na lang, iyong mga mananahi namin, noong binisita namin, kaunti lang naman iyong kita nila per PPE na tinatahi nila, pero nagpapasalamat silang grabe kasi sabi nila ‘may pangkain na po kami, may pangbili na ng gamot’,” she said.
(For example, we have seamstresses whom we visited, who said that they are only earning small from the personal protective equipment they are making, but they are thankful because they have food to eat, medicine to buy.)
“Iyong iba naman na binisita namin, ‘noong wala pa po itong PPE, umaasa lang kami sa tulong ng barangay’. Tapos makikita iyong ganito. Parang napaka-insensitive sa kahirapan ng tao,” she added.
(Other people we visited said when the PPE tailoring programs were not in place, they relied on assistance from the barangay. Then we can see things like this. It’s like they are very insensitive to the people’s struggles and hardships.)
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