THE Cebu Provincial Government has launched a probe into a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) pronouncement that crushed dolomite boulders from Cebu were being used to fill up Manila Bay’s 500-meter baywalk as part of the national agency’s bay re-habilitation program.
Provincial Board Member John Ismael Borgonia (Cebu, 3rd District), who chairs the committee on environment and natural resources, said re-ports that minerals from Cebu were being used to develop Manila Bay “caught him by surprise.”
He said they will verify which part of the province pro-vided the dolomite rocks for the DENR project.
“We are tracing, in particular, what beach and what they used (to extract). This is alarm-ing. Suddenly, we hear that sand is taken from us for Manila Bay,” Borgonia told reporters on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020.
DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny Antiporda had told reporters the “sand” that was brought to Manila was crushed “dolomite boulders” from Cebu.
Malacañang has faced a wave of criticism over the Manila Bay rehabilitation project done at a time of the coronavirus crisis.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque explained that funds for the project were al-ready allocated even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Environmentalists and fisherfolk also described the Manila Bay makeover, which cost government around P349 million, as destructive on the area in Cebu where the “sand” was sourced, while it hardly addressed the bay’s environmental degradation problems.
But past these issues on the project’s timeliness and relevance, Cebu officials want to know why no undertaking was made with them that would al-low dolomite from the Province to be mined and then turned into white sand for Manila Bay.
“As far as I know, they can-not just right away quarry minerals from Cebu even if it’s a National Government undertaking because local governments have autonomy,” Borgonia said in Cebuano.
Borgonia said securing a permit to mine or quarry minerals from Cebu is a tedious process.
“They have to ask the necessary permit from Cebu Province and the consent of the particular local government unit where they plan to extract. They can not do it without our consent,” Borgonia added.
The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) also wants to know if the mining operator responsible for the dolomite extraction was engaged in small-scale or large-scale mining.
Penro Chief Rodel Bontuyan said the Province has jurisdiction only over small-scale min-ing operations or those operating within a five-hectare area.
Only the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has total jurisdiction over large-scale mining operations, Bontuyan explained.
Based on Penro’s records, only the town of Alcoy in south-ern Cebu has a mining industry that is totally dependent on dolomite.
For its part, the DENR Central Visayas said it will verify if the material used to fill up the stretch of Manila Bay’s shore-line really came from Cebu.
DENR 7 Communications Development Officer Maricita Cabasa said the regional DENR office is coordinating with the MGB 7 to trace extraction permits that may have been issued.
Cabasa said a permit to transfer would be needed to transport the minerals from Cebu to Manila. The DENR’s rehabilitation of Manila Bay is being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“From our end, we are trying to trace where the DPWH sourced the material and who they contracted for it,” Cabasa said.
Immediately after winning the 2019 elections, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued orders to stop the issuance of quarry permits across the province due to numerous violations incurred by quarry operators.
Garcia also increased the number of requirements needed before quarry operators are again issued permits.
“It’s a classic example that there is still quarrying going on even if this has already been suspended in Cebu Province. We will ask Penro to investigate where this is going on and if those undertaking this have the necessary permit,” Borgonia said. / JJL