VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Post comparing Manila Bay rehab with old toilet project has MISLEADING budget figures

Facebook (FB) page Unite Pinas posted on Sept. 20 an image comparing two multi-million-peso government projects: a public toilet with no dividers, and the new man-made beach in Manila Bay. It came with text indicating their supposed price tags: “P295 million” for the restroom project and “P385 million” for the popular bay’s “entire rehab”.

The post misleads with inaccurate information.

First, the budget allotted for Manila Bay’s beautification is P389 million, not P385 million. Second, this amount is only intended for the bay’s “beach nourishment” program.

From this amount, P28 million was used to purchase and transport the controversial crushed dolomite sourced from Cebu used as the bay’s artificial “white sand.”

But this is less than one percent of the budget for Manila Bay’s entire rehabilitation, which is at P47 billion, according to several news reports. In 2019, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda was quoted as saying the project may take up to seven years to accomplish.

The Manila Bay photo used in the post was originally uploaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ official FB page on Sept. 19, the same day the “white sand” beach was temporarily opened to the public.

On the other hand, the poorly designed restroom project, priced slightly lower than the beach nourishment program, was part of a P295-million project launched during the Aquino administration.

The image of the “three-in-one” public toilet in Unite Pinas’s post was taken in a Philippine National Railways station in Manila, published in an August 2018 ABS-CBN story.

According to a GMA News Online report, the “Kayo ang Boss Ko Toilet Facilities Improvement project” intended to construct 1,000 bathrooms for the Department of Transportation and its attached agencies. In 2017, state auditors said the project was “uncompleted” and its construction materials were “unaccounted.”

The Facebook page’s misleading post emerged as netizens, environmental groups and government officials questioned the necessity of the Manila Bay beautification project amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Groups also slammed the project as crushed dolomite, when inhaled, could be harmful. (SEE Toxicologist: Dolomite particles may cause cancer, other diseases).

The misleading FB post has been shared over 1,200 times and could have reached over 500,000 people. Among its top traffic generators, apart from the page itself, are public FB groups OPINION PUBLICO NO BIAS and Raffy Tulfo In Action Supporters‎.

Unite Pinas was created on Nov. 23, 2017.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)