‘White sand’ for Manila Bay from Cebu? Local officials probe

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | September 04,2020 - 03:23 PM

‘White sand’ for Manila Bay from Cebu? Local officials probe

Sunset view at the Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard. INQUIRER.net file photo / Edward Lu

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Local officials in Cebu will be conducting separate investigations into reports that the dolomite used to transform Manila Bay into an artificially-made white sand beach were sourced from Cebu.

Cebu 3rd District Board Member and Lawyer John Ismael Borgonia told reporters in a teleconference on Friday, September 4, that they had tapped the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) to look into the matter.

Borgonia, who chairs the Provincial Board’s committee on environment, expressed alarm on information that the raw materials used to fill portions of Manila Bay came from Cebu.

READ MORE: Critics see red in Manila Bay’s ‘white sand’ makeover

“We still don’t have verified information on this. Wala pa ta kahibaw aha nga particular site gi extract… Pero this is alarming. Kalit lang ta kuhaan ug (materials) para himuon ug bas sa Manila Bay,” Borgonia said.

(We still don’t have verified information on this. We still don’t know the particular site of the extraction. But this is alarming. Out of nowhere, they’re going to source materials from us to be used as white sand in Manila Bay.)

In Cebu City, Councilor Joel Garganera also said they had sought clarifications from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR – 7) to shed light on this concern.

Garganera said that he was told by the top official of DENR – 7 that the agency had not issued any permits recently allowing the transport of all types of minerals outside Cebu island.

“They also told me they have inquired (from) the NCR (National Capital Region) office of DENR to determine where and why they got the information saying that dolomite came from Cebu,” he added in Cebuano.

Garganera also said the city government would be meeting other officials of DENR-7 tomorrow, Saturday (September 5) to investigate on this the development as well as to raise concerns on reports of illegal quarrying operations in the mountain barangays of Cebu City.

Manila Bay as white-sand beach?

On Thursday, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda announced that their agency had started pouring ”white sand” on a 500-meter stretch of the bay’s naturally gray shoreline in Manila, near the Baywalk strip along Roxas Boulevard.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on Thursday that the project was part of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program launched by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu in January 2019 to save the bay from decades of pollution and urban blight, as ordered by the Supreme Court.

Antiporda was also quoted saying that the ‘sand’ was actually made of crushed rocks of dolomite, a type of mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate, that was transported to Manila from Cebu province.

However, in later interviews, the DENR executive said he could not immediately say where the dolomite was sourced, saying this aspect of the project was handled by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

READ MORE: ‘White sand’ to discourage littering in Manila Bay, says DENR

CDN Digital has reached out to the regional offices of DENR and DPWH in Central Visayas but to no avail as of this posting.

In a separate interview, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) said that based on their present data, there was an operating source for dolomite in Alcoy town in southeastern Cebu.

“Our dolomite source in Cebu province is at Alcoy. As far as we can remember, there is a private contractor operating there under the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA),” said PENRO chief Rodel Bontuyan.

However, Bontuyan said the extraction site did not fall under their jurisdiction since it covered more than five hectares. He explained that quarrying sites with land areas spanning over five hectares are regulated by national government agencies such as DENR.

Archives from MGB-7’s official website, dated 2015, showed that a quarry site producing dolomite is operating through an MPSA arrangement in Barangay Pugalo, Alcoy.

On the other hand, Bontuyan said their office was coordinating with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of DENR-7 to trace if any quarrying firms were granted permits to ship minerals outside of Cebu.

“As of this moment, we still cannot confirm this development because as far as the province is concerned, we have not issued any transport permit authorizing anyone to move minerals,” said Bontuyan.

MGB-7, in their 2019 Cebu province Mineral Profile, reported that the island has produced around P14.9 billion worth of copper concentrate, gold, silver, limestone, and dolomite.

“Cebu province is poised to be the largest Copper Concentrate producer in the Philippines, with an output of 186, 502 DMT (dry metric tonnes) valued at P11.36 billion,” portions of the report said.

“Non-metallic minerals including limestone, marbleized limestone, aggregates, dolomite, are valued at P719.45 million in 2019,” it added./dbs

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TAGS: Cebu Provincial Board

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