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Moreno defends Manila Bay white sand project

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Moreno defends Manila Bay white sand project
During the Kapihan sa Manila, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said he understood the decision of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to halt the extraction and transport of dolomite for the bay’s beautification program.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Mayor Isko Moreno again defended yesterday the white sand project in Manila Bay, saying the dolomite believed to be hazardous to people’s health is not fine enough to pose risks when inhaled.

During the Kapihan sa Manila, Moreno said he understood the decision of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to halt the extraction and transport of dolomite for the bay’s beautification program.

Garcia on Tuesday ordered two mining firms to stop extracting dolomite in Alcoy town.

With the halt order, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the Cebu government could probe the deal between the contractor and the mining companies.

Without findings of any anomaly in the project, Moreno said he would support the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in rehabilitating Manila Bay.

He also cited a reply to him by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau that only dolomite dust measuring up to 50 microns would be hazardous to health.

The dolomite dumped in Manila Bay measures two to five millimeters or 2,000 to 5,000 microns, 100 times bigger than fine dust that could be suspended in the air and inhaled, Moreno explained.

He said hotels also used dolomite sand in their beach fronts.

Asked about the waste of taxpayers’ money in case the P28 million worth of dolomite gets washed away after heavy rains, Moreno said he would have to trust the DENR’s engineering plan to prevent this.

House probe sought

Lawmakers yesterday sought a congressional inquiry into the white sand project.

The Makabayan bloc led by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate cited the public outrage on the dumping of artificial white sand along the 500-meter coastline of the bay.

Lawmakers echoed the appeal of environmental groups for the DENR to suspend the beach nourishment project.

The lawmakers also cited the warning of University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea director Jay Batongbacal on health hazards that crushed dolomite may bring such as cancer and damage to the lungs.

The Department of Health (DOH) clarified that dolomite in its “bulk state does not pose health risks.”

“Crushed dolomite, like any other dust particles, can cause chest discomfort, shortess of breath and coughing as our body’s normal reaction to irritants,” the DOH said.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu defended the project and insisted on the safety of dolomite.

“It is not listed by the Mines Safety and Health Association, Occupational Safety and Health Association and International Agency for Research of Cancer as a carcinogen,” Cimatu said.

“What is hazardous is the fine silica quads in dolomite in the form of dust that is generated during crushing and screening,” he added. — Edu Punay, Delon Porcalla, Rhodina Villanueva, Sheila Crisostomo

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