GOV. Gwendolyn Garcia did not order the Philippine Mining Service Corp. (PMSC) and the Dolomite Mining Corp. (DMC) to shut down their whole mining operations in the southern town of Alcoy.
The governor explained that she did not want ore transport permits to be issued for the three remaining dolomite shipments for the Manila Bay beautification project.
The two firms had already sent 7,000 wet metric tons of dolomite to the capital for that purpose.
She said the executive order she issued on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, did not include the firms’ operations under the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7.
She said the MPSA allows the operation and extraction of dolomite in the area for 25 years. The dolomite is exported to countries such as Japan and South Korea. It is used to make glass and steel.
However, it was learned that the PMSC has been selling the dolomite mined by the DMC to local customers, which used these as substitutes for sand and gravel.
The firm also sold the crushed dolomite that was dumped on the shores of the Manila Bay as part of its rehabilitation project.
According to Garcia, under the MPSA, the PMSC has no permit to sell to local firms.
In 2019, the Capitol sent a notice through the Provincial Treasurer’s Office directing the PMSC to secure a waste disposal permit. But the latter failed to do so.
Since the firm has been selling crushed dolomite as a substitute to sand and gravel in local markets, it needs to secure the permit from the Provincial Government, Garcia said.
It also needs to remit 10 percent of proceeds to the barangay, local government unit and the Provincial Government, she added.
“I am putting PMSC to task for continuing to refuse to pay the Province. Cebuanos deserve to also receive their share from a mineral deposit that is found in Cebu Island in which the firms are earnings millions. They cannot continue to operate with impunity without doing what is right,” Garcia said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
She is also worried about the mining’s environmental impact in the area, which is home to many endangered species like the Black Shama, or Siloy.
“I do not want another Naga landslide to happen. We can’t wait for a disaster to happen and for lives to be lost before we react. Right now, staff of Penro (Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office) are at the sight with a drone. They will use it to fly over the mined area to see what is happening on the ground... we have to be proactive because I will not sit back and barely react to events that may become catastrophes,” the governor said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Garcia said she is prepared to face the two firms in court.
On Wednesday, Sept. 9, the Department of Health (DOH) issued an official statement assuring the public that the use of dolomite for the beach nourishment initiative in the Manila Bay is safe.
“Therefore, in terms of the general safety of the public who will be enjoying the shoreline once permitted, DOH assures that no untoward incidents will occur as a result of this endeavor,” reads a portion of the statement.
The DOH said it learned from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that the dolomite material being used on the baywalk is two to five millimeters big, or 100 times bigger than dust, so it “does not get suspended on air.”
The DOH said dolomite in its “bulk state” is not a known health hazard while dolomite in “dust form,” like any other dust particle, can lead to symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath and coughing since this is the body’s normal reaction to irritants.
The DOH said occupational and safety standards for workers and precautionary measures for the containment of possible dust formation are being implemented.
On Monday, Sept. 7, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said dolomite dust that comes from crushed rocks, can cause respiratory issues when inhaled, among other health risks.
The Manila Bay Rehabilitation Project is using crushed dolomite from Alcoy, Cebu to cover a 500-meter stretch of shore. / ANV, WBS / PJB