Cimatu insists dolomite safe, defends Manila Bay white sand project
MANILA, Philippines — Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu insisted on Tuesday the safety of dolomite in its controversial artificial rehabilitation of Manila Bay despite previous warnings from the Department of Health (DOH) regarding its possible health hazards.
During the budget deliberation of the DENR before the House committee on appropriations, Cimatu was asked if he can categorically state that dolomites, which comes from crushed rocks from Cebu and dumped in Manila Bay to transform it into a white-sand beach, are safe.
Cimatu responded in the affirmative.
“It is not listed by the Mines Safety and Health Association, Occupational Safety and Health Association or even in the International Agency for Research Of Cancer as a carcinogen,” Cimatu said.
“What is hazardous is the fine silica quads in some dolomite in the form of dust that is generated during crushing and screening,” he added.
According to Cimatu, the dust particles are only 10 to 15 microns and are hazardous if inhaled for long periods of exposure without personal protective equipment.
However, the size of the dolomite being used in Manila Bay is two to five millimeters or equivalent to 2,000 to 5,000 microns or 100 times bigger than dust, said Cimatu.
“Therefore, [they are] not suspended in air and it cannot be inhaled,” he added.
Cimatu then cited a couple of private establishments and resorts which use dolomite, which he said, never received any complaints for over 20 years of its use.
“Public beach using dolomite is in Dalaguete, Cebu, that for the last six years, no issues or complaints were raised also,” he added.
“So I stand by this research coming from our Bureau of Mines and Geosciences,” Cimatu said.
Several lawmakers, meanwhile, expressed support towards DENR’s project in Manila Bay.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte hopes that the environment department be given a chance, saying that the sand particles are also being used in golf courses.
“Hindi first time na gagawin yun ng DENR. Ako I support this, excited na ako ng Manila Bay,” Villafuerte said.
In an online press briefing on Monday, DOH said the dolomite dust, which came from crushed rocks from Cebu province and dumped in the Manila Bay shore, can cause respiratory illness when inhaled.
“‘Yung dolomite dust, it can cause respiratory issues or effects to a person. Kapag napunta sa mata, nagkakaroon ng irritation so you just have to wash it off with water,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
(If it comes in contact with the eyes, it can cause irritation so you just have to wash it off with water.)
“Kapag na-ingest ito, it can have discomfort sa gastrointestinal system natin and magkakaroon lang ng kaunting sakit ng tiyan at pagtatae,” Vergeire added.
(If this is ingested, it can have discomfort in a person’s gastrointestinal system it will cause pain and diarrhea.)