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Even without corruption, Manila Bay rehab is not OK during pandemic – Robredo

/ 12:19 AM September 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo remains firm in her stand that the Manila Bay rehabilitation project is ill-timed even if it followed all the required procedures without corruption.

In an interview with Vanguard Radio Network on Friday, Robredo said that the Manila Bay project should have been forgone for the time being, not just because of all the red flags raised — health hazards, ecological dangers, corruption issues — but because funds could better be used for the government’s COVID-19 response.

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She also reiterated her stand that beautification of an area during a pandemic that had affected so many families would be insensitive.

“For me, the first thing is the timing,” she said in Filipino. “Let’s say there are no health hazards. Let’s say there’s no environmental damage. For me, you [the administration] keep saying that we don’t have any money. So many are going hungry now. So many need help. We can’t control the transmission [of the virus]. Then you see something like this.”

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“For example, let’s say the requirements have been followed,” she went on. “I don’t know if it has an ECC [Environmental Compliance Certificate] or not because people are saying different things. But let’s say that all the requirements are followed, that there was no corruption, that there was an honest-to-goodness bidding. It’s still not okay.

Robredo previously questioned why the government decided to push through with the project knowing that the funds could have been allocated to programs that would help the country fight the pandemic.

In the same radio interview on Friday, she said she understood that the budget used for the Manila Bay rehabilitation project was allocated prior to the pandemic. But it could have been stopped temporarily to give way to the needs of fighting the pandemic.

“This was planned before the COVID-19 pandemic at a big cost. For me, it’s okay if they think beautifying Manila Bay will help. I have no problem with that,” she said. “But my problem here is the timing. Timing has a big impact. The funds could have been realigned to current needs.”

On Wednesday, think tank organization Infrawatch PH raised several red flags on the project, which involved overlaying a stretch of the Manila Bay shortline with artificial white sand made of crushed dolomite.

According to Infrawatch PH, the project did not secure an ECC and seemed to be overpriced.

The opening of the project site also led to a mass gathering there despite the risk of COVID-19 infection.

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President Rodrigo Duterte previously slammed Robredo and the opposition for nitpicking, criticizing the administration for whatever it did or did not do.

Duterte also told Robredo that solving the pandemic would not be possible without a vaccine. Before that, the Vice President noted that the administration seemed to be doing little to solve the problems caused by the pandemic.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Infrawatch PH, Leni Robredo, Manila Bay white sand project, Rodrigo Duterte
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