IF THEY wanted to make the Manila Bay look like Boracay or Palawan, why not take the sand from any of those places? Why take, whether sand or crushed dolomite, from Cebu?
Some Cebu beach resorts have been known to “import” sand from neighboring islands such as Bohol, famous for its white sand and sandbars. So, it was a surprise when news reports said initially that the sand for the Manila Bay restoration came from Cebu.
Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda later clarified that the “sand” brought to Manila was actually crushed “dolomite boulders” from Cebu. Antiporda is in charge of solid waste management and local government unit concerns. It may seem that the use of dolomite instead of sand for the Manila Bay project was a non-issue. But, to Cebuanos, it is a concern because that dolomite came from somewhere here where mining and quarry operations are restricted.
Two years ago, in September, at least 65 people were killed in landslides in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City, Cebu. Local officials have blamed nearby mining and quarry operations for making the ground unstable. That Sept. 20, 2018 landslide in Naga City came five days after a massive landslide hit Itogon, a mining town in Benguet, in the wake of Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut). Almost 100 people died in the Itogon landslide.
Both incidents happened in September two years ago. We remember them now after dolomite mined in Cebu was brought to Manila as part of the project to cover Manila Bay’s shore with sand and make it look like Boracay or Palawan. This project is a component of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Government critics and environmentalists called this rehabilitation a “fake” as it was concerned only with appearances and not a real cleanup.
In addition, Cebu officials were not aware of permission being granted to the DENR to move crushed dolomite from Cebu to Manila. The Cebu Provincial Government has suspended quarrying. How then was the DENR able to get permission for the extraction and transport? Local officials are now asking for an investigation on who gave the go-signal. Provincial Board (PB) Member John Ismael Borgonia (Cebu, 3rd District), head of the PB committee on environment and natural resources, said Antiporda’s statement “caught him by surprise.”
Borgonia said he wants to know which part of the province provided the dolomite rocks for the DENR project and why there was no undertaking with them for the dolomite extraction for the Manila Bay project. “As far as I know, they cannot just right away quarry minerals from Cebu even if it’s a National Government undertaking because local governments have autonomy,” Borgonia said in a SunStar Cebu report.
“It’s a classic example of quarrying still going on even if this has already been suspended in Cebu Province,” Borgonia said.
Someone in the DENR has some explaining to do to Cebu.