Manila Bay 'white sand' critics may seek writ of kalikasan — maritime expert

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Manila Bay 'white sand' critics may seek writ of kalikasan � maritime expert
A bulldozer is seen working on the "white sand"—actually crushed dolomite rocks—poured along the shoreline of Manila Bay on September 6, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:46 p.m.) — Critics of the government’s project to fill Manila Bay’s shoreline with “white sand” can seek the issuance of a writ of kalikasan to halt the undertaking which can pose harmful impacts to the environment and the people.

Lawyer Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said there were reports from US companies that dolomite—the rock crushed to produce the artificial white sand—can result in respiratory issues and is a potential carcinogen.

These harmful effects of dolomite can be used by organizations or individuals as ground for the filing of a petition for writ of kalikasan, Batongbacal said in an interview on radio dzBB Monday.

“It is essentially dumping potentially hazardous material along a long and wide area of the bay that is well-used by people that can cause harm to people and environment. A case could be filed under the Special Rule for Environment Cases,” Batongbacal said in a text message to Philstar.com.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy for persons or organizations “whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee or private individual or entity, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.”

Batongbacal said “a court could possibly order a halt to the dumping or removal of the material already dumped” should the writ is granted.

“Criminal and civil liabilities could be imposed depending on the specific law or regulation violated and invoked in the case especially since dolomite is potentially hazardous to human health, not just the surrounding coastal environment,” he added.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Benny Antiporda earlier said the “beach nourishment” project is part of the government’s program to rehabilitate the degraded Manila Bay.

Respiratory ailments, carcinogenic

In a safety report issued in 2012, US cement company Lehigh Hanson warned that dolomite—made from calcium magnesium carbonate—may lead to respiratory ailments and even cancer.

“Inhaling dust may cause discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, and coughing. Prolonged inhalation may cause chronic health effects,” it said.

Lehigh Hanson also said that dolomite contains crystalline silica. “Prolonged or repeated inhalation of respirable crystalline silica liberated from this product can cause silicosis, and may cause cancer.”

Lhoist North America, in its 2018 safety report, said dolomite “causes damage to lungs through prolonged or repeated exposure when inhaled.”

In a briefing Monday, the Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the inhalation of crushed dolomite rocks can cause respiratory problems and gastro-intestinal discomfort.

She, however, said the DENR would not push through with the project if it did not study that pulverized dolomite rocks would cause harm to the environment and the people.

“Kailangan lang natin ipagpatuloy ang pagpapatuad ng minimum health standards para makaiwas tayo sa anumang epekto ng nilagay na dolomite sa Manila Bay,” Vergeire said. 

(We need to continuously follow minimum health standards to prevent any effects of dolomite in Manila Bay.)

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau Central Visayas issued on August 26 an Ore Transport Permit to Philippine Mining Service Corporation to transport 3,500 metric tons of processed dolomite to Manila.

Geophysical hazards, too

Scientist group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People also warned of the geophysical hazards of the “beach nourishment” project.

“Only a thin layer of these powdered dolomite rocks is overlayed on the beach, on top of existing black sand. This makes an enriched beach susceptible to coastal erosion, especially considering the number of typhoons in the country,” Jerwin Baure, AGHAM spokesperson and fisheries expert of fishers group PAMALAKAYA said.

Antiporda earlier said the project is not covered by the country’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Projects or undertakings which are seen to have significant adverse impact to the quality of the environment should undergo the country’s EIS system. 

An environmental impact assessment evaluates the likely impacts of a project on the environment and the surrounding communities and includes mitigation and preventive measures to address the identified consequences of a project.

In a statement Monday, PAMALAKAYA called for the suspension of the project until its suitability and sustainability to the rehabilitation program are established.

“We demand the DENR to suspend and eventually terminate this absurd project because it is useless and a waste of people's fund with no benefit to the fishers and coastal residents residing along Manila Bay,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA chairperson, said.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 8, 2023 - 12:00pm

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources orders the closure of Aristocrat restaurant in Roxas Boulevard for "generating and discharging pollutive wastewater" amid the government's move to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

The Manila Bay rehabilitation program involves cleanup activities, relocation of illegal settlers as well as apprehension of establishments that violate the Philippine Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. 

Last January 22, the Manila City government has ordered the temporary closure of Manila Zoo to allow the reconstruction of its sewer lines. The zoo is located near Estero de San Antonio Abad in Malate, Manila, which directly drains into the Manila Bay.

DENR ordered establishments around the bay to put up their own sewage treatment plants last January 11.

October 8, 2023 - 12:00pm

Fishers' group PAMALAKAYA reports that fishers witnessed a dredging vessel closely passing by their fishing boat off Cavite last night, October 7.

The continued dredging or reclamation off Manila Bay comes two months after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced the suspension of reclamation in Manila Bay.

In its report, the group says the dredging vessel is involved in seabed quarrying in Cavite to fulfill several dump-and-fill projects in Manila Bay, particularly for the airport reclamation project in Bulacan. 

It condemns the act saying it is "a proof that Marcos Jr's suspension order on reclamation is a sham, especially with the absence of an official Executive Order." — Rosette Adel

May 16, 2022 - 8:58am

The Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach will be reopened to the public on May 20, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources announces.

June 7, 2021 - 2:18pm

A fishers' group slams the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for issuing an environmental compliance certificate to a reclamation project in Bulacan.

The DENR has granted San Miguel Corp. a permit for its P700-billion aerotropolis project that would cover over 2,500 hectares of Manila Bay.

Pamalakaya says the aerotropolis project is "on the opposite track" of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program.

“Reclamation defeats the purpose of rehabilitation as it endangers vital marine resources that keep Manila Bay abundant and biodiverse," Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap says.

November 20, 2020 - 1:03pm

Akbayan is calling on the original parties in the 2008 environmental protection case over Manila Bay to join them in questioning the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources' dolomite beach project.

The party does this in a statement after the Supreme Court denied its motion to intervene in the case, adding the court "has taken, quite sadly, a hands-off approach on an issue of transcendental importance."

It adds: "Even the high tribunal's statement that it found no violation of its continuing Mandamus is discouraging. It limited its findings to the reports submitted by the DENR on its specific directive to clean the waters of the bay and perform maintenance measures." 

"It failed to include in its assessment the DENR's dumping of fake sand as a polluting act violative of its order."

October 30, 2020 - 1:18pm

Akbayan party-list will hold a "bicycle action" on November 3 "coinciding with the Supreme Court's en banc session to deliberate on the petition Akbayan filed on the dumping of dolomite sand along Manila Bay."

Bikers will meet at Plaza Salamanca in the morning and head to the Supreme Court gates in Padre Faura.

In its announcement, Akbayan says it is calling for the SC to "hold the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in contempt for dumping fake white sand in Manila Bay, which is in violation of the court's continuing Mandamus on the area, as well to save Manila Bay the right way." 

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