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
Certificate of non-coverage issued to Manila Bay white sand project, EMB chief says
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - September 17, 2020 - 9:13am

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.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 18, 2020 - 10:06am

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.

September 18, 2020 - 10:06am

The fish kill in the Baseco portion of the Manila Bay is an indication that it is degraded as it is, fisherfolk group Pamalakaya says.

"It‘s environmental degradation is supposed to be the main concern that the DENR should be seriously addressing, not busying itself with some kind of beach nourishment' that is actually ephemeral aesthetics, but irrelevant to rehabilitation," Pamalakaya says in a statement.

The group calls on the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to conduct water sampling and laboratory analysis for possible water pollution. However, there is no established connection yet between the fish kill and the "white sand" project.

September 9, 2020 - 3:51pm

The Department of Health assures the public that "no untoward incidents" will occur as a result to the use of crushed dolomite rocks as "white sand" in the Manila Bay coastline.

The agency clarifies that dolomite is not known as a health hazard in its bulk state but can have harmful effects if it is in dust form, like any other dust particle.

"As stated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the dolomite material that is being used in Baywalk is 2-5mm or 100 times bigger than dust, therefore does not get suspended in air," the DOH says in a statement.

September 9, 2020 - 9:04am

House members under the Makabayan bloc file a resolution seeking for an inquiry into the suitability and sustainability of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program following the dumping of crushed dolomite boulders on the coastline.

Rep. Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna Party-list), Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Party-list), Rep. Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna Party-list), Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women's Party), Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers Party-list) and Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan Party-list) filed the resolution.

The seven lawmakers cited people's opposition due to the project's impact to the environment, public health and injudicious utilization of public funds.

September 8, 2020 - 3:31pm

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno seeks clarification from Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu over the pronouncement of the Department of Health that using crushed dolomite rock for the beach nourishment project of Manila Bay can cause respiratory problems.

In a letter dated Sept. 7, 2020, Moreno cited the remarks of Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire that the material used as white sand in filling Manila Bay coastline may be harmful to people's health.

"Hence, pursuant to the faithful discharge of my duty to promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology and preserve the comfort and convenience of the city inhabitants, may we seek your clarification on this declaration of Usec. Vergeire to make sure that the health, comfort and convenience of the city inhabitants and other neighboring local government units are properly taken care of," Moreno says in the letter.

September 7, 2020 - 10:56am

A writ of kalikasan plea may be filed against projects that bring potential harm to the environment, including the white sand project at Manila Bay, lawyer Jay Batongbacal says.

Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, says mining companies have long been warning against the use of crushed dolomite boulders, which contain mercury and lead that could be harmful to marine life.

"Dahil sa potential harm na possible niyang gawin puwede pang habulin... Maraming batas na potentiall involved," Batongbacal tells radio dzBB Monday morning.

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