Cebu fears repeat of 2018 accident that killed 77 people
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia stopped the mining and transport of dolomite for the Manila Bay beautification project to prevent a repetition of the 2018 mining accident that killed 77 in Naga town, a lawyer for the capitol said on Wednesday.
“The governor does not want another tragedy to happen in Cebu,” provincial legal consultant Marino Martinquilla said in an interview with ABS-CBN TeleRadyo.
Martinquilla said provincial officials were not only concerned by the legal infirmities of what they deemed to be an unstudied project, but also by the effects of dolomite processing on the residents of the province.
The Department of Health warned on Tuesday crushing dolomite may cause respiratory illnesses.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu also clarified that the crushed dolomite being dumped on the shores of Manila Bay was 100 times bigger than dust that could be harmful to people’s health.
For the last six years, Cimatu added that there were no issues or complaints raised against the public beach in Dalaguete, Cebu that was also made with dolomite.
Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, on the other hand, said he would be the first to seek the prosecution of officials if the project is found to be harmful to the health of the public.
But Martinquilla said there are other issues against dolomite mining in the province.
The lawyer pointed out that the mining of limestone from Naga, Cebu killed at least 77 people in September 2018 and that project was also approved by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
Martinquilla said the mining operations violated several environmental laws, including failure to coordinate with the local government and lack of a study on its impact on Alcoy, home to an endangered bird species.
“The province of Cebu has not been given its fair share in terms of revenue in this extraction,” Martinquilla said, adding that the capitol was undertaking a ground and aerial survey to determine the extent of mining in Alcoy.
A coalition of Manila-based environmental groups agreed that the project did not undergo an environmental impact assessment study, as required by law, and asked
Domogoso, Congress and the Ombudsman in an online petition to prosecute the officials responsible for the project.
The project was not even part of the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan approved by the National Economic Development Authority, the groups said.
Indeed, the Neda’s 2019 MBSDMP situation analysis report made no references to either a beach nourishment project or of the dumping of dolomite sand onto the bay’s coastline.
At press time, the petition was only 30 signatures short of its 400-signatory goal. The DENR could not be reached immediately for comment.
But after Cimatu and the DOH clarified the legal and health concerns over the project, Domogoso said he backs the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, particularly the portion in Manila.
“While we are grateful for the project, we are also protectful of our people. We’re already in a health emergency because of the pandemic, then something like this comes up,” he said.
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