Pandemic period priorities: ‘White sand’ project juxtaposed with Vico’s distance learning efforts

September 9, 2020 - 7:15 PM
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Vico Sotto with Filipinos
Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto with Filipinos during the Department of Health's vaccination campaign at Pasig City Elementary School on July 16, 2019. (Philstar/Efigenio Christopher Toledo IV)

Mayor Vico Sotto announced that the city government of Pasig have allocated almost P1.3 billion in preparation for the upcoming distance learning of students in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The youngest Metro Manila city chief in a virtual briefing with the Department of Education on Wednesday said that the funds will be used to secure tablets for public school students and laptops for teachers.

Sotto added that the funds would also be used for students with “ICT (information and communication technology) needs,” as well as for the printing of modules and for schools’ internet usage.

“Key words natin for this season are adaptability and synergy. Hindi po tayo papayag na dahil sa isang virus, ay matitigil ang pag-aaral ng ating kabataan,” he said.

Last July, Pasig held a pre-bidding conference for the city students’ laptops and tablets to be used for distance learning.

Sotto said that the maximum bid reached P1,264,247,623.

He previously revealed his plans on how the city’s youth can still pursue education amid an ongoing pandemic around three months after the country was placed in community quarantine.

‘Sana all’ 

Meanwhile, Sotto’s initiative for allocating funds dedicated to distance learning was lauded by social media users who juxtaposed it against a government agency’s plan to pursue the Manila Bay “beach nourishment project.”

“Wala naman masama na gawin ang beautifications pero ‘di ‘yun ang priority (ngayon), panahon ng crisis.. needs instead of wants muna,” wrote a Twitter user in response to reports of Pasig’s initiative.

“Maayos na leader and proper allocation lang talaga, t**gina yung isa (diyan) in a middle of pandemic ‘yung white sand kineme inaasikaso,” wrote another online user.

“Sa panahong may pandemya: Edukasyon > Manila Bay beautification,” commented a Filipino, emphasizing that education should be prioritized over the aesthetically-driven project.

“Naol (Sana all)! Kamusta naman si #YouKnowWho na suportado pa ang white sand sa Manila Bay?” another Twitter user questioned in reference to Malacañang which defended the controversial initiative.

The controversial Manila Bay project 

Last week, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources caught the public’s attention when it began to dump crushed dolomite rocks from Cebu on the bay walk as part of the initiative to transform the area like Boracay, which is known for its white sand beaches.

The initiative raised eyebrows from Filipinos, including Vice President Leni Robredo, who accused the agency of misplaced priorities as it allocates funds in a non-pandemic-related project.

READ: Funds for Manila Bay ‘white sand’ project could have been better spent, says bishop

Robredo said the hefty P349 million could be used to fund the national government’s COVID-19 efforts instead, considering that the country holds the top spot for the most number of cases in the Southeast Asian region.

For Education Secretary Leonor Briones, the funds could’ve been used to fund the distance learning needs of Filipinos who cannot afford to have gadgets and other equipment as the school year opens.

The Palace, however, said that the initiative could boost people’s mental health amid an ongoing public health crisis.

The project was also approved last year as “part of the budget for 2020” before the pandemic happened, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

But Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia on Tuesday ordered the mining companies in the province to stop the extraction of the dolomite rocks as provincial and municipal officials were not informed of the project.

The Department of Health also cited “minor” health risks associated with the crushed dolomite rocks but later on clarified that it “does not get suspended in the air.”

Environmental Secretary Roy Cimatu reiterated that the size of the dolomite particles was “100 times bigger than dust” and cited that hotels have also used it on their beachfront before without incident.