Certificate of non-coverage issued to Manila Bay white sand project, EMB chief says

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Certificate of non-coverage issued to Manila Bay white sand project, EMB chief says
People gather at a pedestrian overpass to see the controversial sand made of crushed dolomite boulders along the shoreline of Manila Bay while viewing the sunset on September 6, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The controversial “beach nourishment” of Manila Bay—classified as an “enhancement” project—did not go through the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, the head of the Environmental Management Bureau said.

Projects in the country that may affect the environment are covered by the country’s EIS system. These projects include “proposed major expansion, rehabilitation and/or modification of existing projects as well as resumption of projects that have stopped operations for a prolonged period.”

But William Cuñado, EMB OIC director, said a certificate of non-coverage (CNC) was instead issued to the project by the former bureau chief. EMB is an agency under the DENR.

CNC is issued by the EMB to certify that the undertaking is not covered by the EIS system and is not required to secure an environmental compliance certificate.

“It’s an enhancement project. There’s no need for environment impact study because it’s a nourishment, enhancement [project] of the areas,” Cuñado said in a forum organized by Oceana Philippines Wednesday, adding the “beach nourishment” project of Manila Bay falls under Category C.

Under Category C are undertakings which are intended to directly enhance the quality of the environment or directly address existing environmental problems.

Cuñado's statement was similar to what DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda told Philstar.com earlier that the project to fill a stretch of Manila Bay’s shoreline with white sand is not covered by the country’s EIS system. But in a statement issued by the DENR Tuesday, it said the project “passed the required environmental impact assessment.”

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.

“It is a rehabilitation project, not a construction project. It’s only a beach nourishment [project] in which we’re beautifying it,” Antiporda said on September 3.

Antiporda, however, said the agency had studied the environmental impacts of the project and that the crushed dolomite boulders would not “disrupt” the coastal ecosystem.

Environmental lawyer Estenzo-Ramos, Oceana Philippines vice president, earlier said the issuance of CNC “is a solid evidence of non-compliance and wilful violation of national laws.”

Publicize studies

Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo and Infrawatch PH convenor Terry Ridon urged the DENR to publicize studies on the project.

“If there are already studies that had been done as some government officials have said, let these studies be openly brought out. If there are yet no studies, then the project should first wait before a study is made and people are assured,” Pabillo said.

“Regardless of whatever it is for as long as the project is located in a historical area, potential tourist spot, it needs to undergo the EIS process. It cannot be exempted. It needs an ECC. Without ECC, the project can’t proceed,” Ridon said.

Groups also called on the DENR to release the project's certificate of non-coverage. 

Government officials have said that the project to build an artificial beach along Manila Bay’coastline is part of the government's rehabilitation program for the entire bay. They also said that the crushed dolomite sand will prevent erosion and neutralize the acidity of the water.

But for environment, fishers and religious groups, the project will pose harm not only to the bay’s marine ecosystem but also to communities around the area. The Department of Health, however, said the crushed dolomite rocks used for the project do not pose health hazards.

Critics of the bay also stressed that the project violated at least five laws on the environment and culture and failed to undergo consultation with stakeholders.

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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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