Marine scientists explain why dolomite sand won't help solve Manila Bay's environmental mess

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Experts warn that the use of the controversial dolomite sand may pose possible health risks and threats to the marine environment. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 1)— The overlaying of sand with crushed dolomite boulders along a portion of Manila Bay will not help solve the environmental problems and issues hounding the area, according to the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute.

In a statement on Wednesday, the UP MSI warned that the use of the controversial dolomite sand— a project in line with the bay’s rehabilitation program — may pose possible health risks and threats to the marine environment.

The institute explained that dolomite sand grains are expected to erode, given the conditions in coastal parts of Metro Manila during storm seasons. It said that even with a presence of a breakwater, or an artificial structure built for protection from waves, elevated seas and huge waves brought by weather disturbances can still penetrate the baywalk.

“Sea level rise in our tropical seas yield the highest rates in the world, about three to four times more than the global average of 3.3 mm/yr,” the UP MSI said.

“Beach nourishment projects are not one-shot deals, especially for continuously eroding shorelines... Hence, continuously replacing the sand will be expensive and will not contribute to improving water quality in the Bay,” the institute added, noting that erosion threat and poor water quality are the two major problems Manila Bay is currently facing.

Aside from the environmental impact, the UP MSI said that the finer particles of dolomite can be “problematic”— with prolonged dust inhalation seen to cause chronic health effects to the public. These risks include discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, and coughing.

The Health Department earlier said that the dolomite dumped along the stretch in Roxas Boulevard cannot cause adverse health effects, since the product is not small enough to be inhaled.

A recently-published report by the Environment Department also showed that the dolomite sand in Manila Bay is not classified as hazardous, as tests done on its samples did not exceed the limits set in the agency’s Revised Procedures and Standards for the Management of Hazardous Wastes.

’No shortcuts’

With environmental advocates strongly opposing the ₱389-million beautification project, the government assured the program was thoroughly reviewed before implementation.

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The UP MSI stressed that there should be “no shortcuts” in the rehabilitation program for Manila Bay, adding that the aesthetic initiative is — at most— a “beautification effort that is costly and temporary.”

“The clean-up of Manila Bay will be a long and arduous task. It must be a concerted effort by everyone living in its watersheds and those using the bay,” it said. “These are achieved with government interventions, social and community behavioral change, and legislations and policy guidelines implemented.”

The Manila Bay “white beach" project is currently on its second phase of development.