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DENR worsened Manila Bay, Akbayan tells SC

/ 05:20 AM September 25, 2020

A party-list group on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to cite the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for contempt for violating its 2008 order to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay when it dumped crushed dolomite rocks along a stretch of the water body to create an artificial white sand beach.

“A dolomite beach in Manila Bay is nothing but a window-dressing project. Disregarding the unconscionable cost at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it might even be acceptable if it does no harm to the environment and to humans. But it does,” Akbayan said in a petition it filed in the high court.

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The DENR’s action has endangered Manila Bay’s ecosystem and created a health hazard, Akbayan said. It “destroys the Manila Bay ecological habitat [and] exposes human residents to the health hazards of a mineral substance used for construction materials,”

Sought for comment, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said Akbayan “had no moral ascendancy of dipping even their smallest finger in this issue.”

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“If they call the dolomite overlaying as ‘dumping,’ what do we call the pile of garbage and silt that was recovered in that area?” he said in a statement sent to reporters. “Can we call it ‘caring’ for Manila Bay? [Akbayan] came before us in this government and they have done nothing to come up with a concrete action to save Manila Bay.”

“Our message ultimately is where were you when Roxas Boulevard was drowning in garbage?” he added.

Mandamus order

On Dec. 18, 2008, the Supreme Court granted the petition of a group of concerned residents and issued a standing order directing government agencies led by the DENR to rehabilitate Manila Bay and restore its waters to levels fit for swimming, skin diving and other forms of contact recreation.

Though it is not one of the original petitioners, Akbayan asked the Supreme Court for leave to intervene in the case, invoking “the protection of public interests.”

“The plans to beautify Manila Bay to the detriment of its ecosystem is a direct violation of the continuing mandamus [court order],” said Akbayan, led by its 81-year-old former party list Rep. Etta Rosales.

About a month ago, the DENR and the Department of Public Works and Highways began dumping crushed dolomite boulders from Cebu province on a stretch of Manila Bay as part of its P389-million artificial beach enhancement project.

Officials of both departments said the project was meant to give Metro Manila residents the feel of Boracay’s famed white powdery beaches.

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P389-M project

Akbayan said the Supreme Court should order the DENR to disclose the details of its P389-million project, pointing out that the money came from the contingency fund of the Office of the President in 2019.

Dolomite, it said, could never be considered a restoration and rehabilitation material for degraded foreshore areas, since it is not the naturally occurring silica sand that is found along the country’s coastlines.

“The presence of dolomite will only make the water classification worse,” said Akbayan. It cited a data safety report by the US-based construction materials supplier Lehigh Hanson Inc., which stated that dolomite could cause cancer, damage to lungs through prolonged repeated exposure, and skin and eye irritation.

Dolomite is used in manufacturing bricks, mortar, cement, plastics, paving materials and other construction materials.

The petition claimed that it was impossible that the DENR was not aware of the consequences and lack of sustainability of its artificial beach enhancement project, as well as the potential harm to the ecosystem and to human health. —WITH A REPORT FROM KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING

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TAGS: Akbayan, DENR, dolomite, Manila Bay, Supreme Court, white sand
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