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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Manila’s Expensive White Sand Beach

AP Photo/Aaron Favila
Workers arrange artificial sand as part of a government beautification project of Manila Bay, Philippines on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.

Beach cleaning is usually a regular group activity around the islands. While the pandemic has disrupted that local routine, a different kind of beach cleanup is going on in the Philippines. And it's sparked some controversy.


Manila Bay is the focus of a cleanup project that has been underway for almost two years now. On the very first day, some 5,000 government workers and volunteers picked up eleven commercial truckloads of trash.

The timeline of the cleanup appears flexible — while there has been some progress, plenty of work remains.

One recent development has surprised many: the introduction of white sand—synthetic white sand.

An Undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told that the material is actually crushed dolomite — a mineral brought in from the island of Cebu. The official said “the white sand signifies cleanliness. This will serve as a campaign for the people to tell them it’s about time for us to take care of our surroundings.”

Critics are not so sure about the practical side, pointing out that the synthetic sand can be washed out by storms, or darkened by pollution. Plus, they say it’s a costly distraction from deeper environmental issues plaguing the water and the surrounding land.  

One comment on social media compared putting white sand on the beach of the still-polluted Manila Bay to “applying clown makeup on a dying patient.”

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