Cebu provincial gov't issues cease-and-desist order to two mining firms over Manila Bay 'white sand' project

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The Cebu provincial government has issued a cease-and-desist order on Tuesday against two mining firms for unauthorized mineral extraction related to the controversial Manila Bay 'white sand' project. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 8) — The Cebu provincial government has issued a cease-and-desist order on Tuesday against two mining firms for unauthorized mineral extraction related to the controversial Manila Bay 'white sand' project.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued the order against Dolomite Mining Corporation and the Philippine Mining Service Corporation in Alcoy town preventing them from further "extracting, processing, selling and transporting dolomite, associated mineral deposits, and other quarry resources."

"The extraction of dolomite minerals from Alcoy and the consequential damage it will cause the terrestrial environment of Cebu Island violate the Cebuano's constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology," the order stated.

The order mentioned that although the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of Central Visayas granted a transport permit to the Philippine Mining Service Corporation to bring the minerals to Manila, it did not inform the Cebu provincial government nor Alcoy town officials about the project.

There was also no environmental impact study on the effects of dolomite extraction and its use on the Manila Bay shoreline, it added. This came after the governor met with representatives from the bureau and other officials, provincial legal consultant Marino Martinquilla said.

Ironically, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on the same day defended the dumping of the sand, citing that the same practice was done in Cebu resorts.

"Nakikita na ngayon na ginagamit ito since 1996 para sa beach nourishment nila sa kanilang mga resorts dito sa Mactan, Cebu," Cimatu said during a House panel hearing on the 2021 budget. "Since 1996 pa ito, wala naman kaming narinig o nabasa na may mga nagreklamo... so ito ang ating agrument sa 'yung question nila that it is harmful."

[Translation: This has been used since 1996 by resorts in Mactan, Cebu for their beach nourishment. Since it has been practiced in 1996 we have not heard of any complaints...so this is our argument against those saying that it is harmful.]

The overlaying of the crushed dolomite on a segment of the Manila Bay shoreline itself drew flak from environmental groups for prioritizing aesthetics over environmental concerns. The Department of Health also warned of the health risks from being exposed to the sand. Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso also sought clarification from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the project's health implications.

The secretary addressed these, saying dolomites are used to filter water and are often used in aquariums. He said the only harm it poses is during the mining process when the dust particles are inhaled, but he assured that the finished product deposited on the shoreline is much larger than dust.

"The size of the dolomite in the baywalk is 2 to 5 milimeters... or 100 times bigger than dust and therefore, cannot be suspended in the air or inhaled," Cimatu said.

Other environment officials also clarified that the budget for the dolomite extraction and transportation was only P28 million compared to the earlier reported P389 million. The larger amount covers the entire Manila Bay "beach nourishment" which includes desilting, or removing filth from the water, Undersecretary Jonas Leones said. He added that the project will span 120 meters across the shoreline from the US Embassy area and 60 meters towards the sea.

Leones said the department is ready to answer to any legal actions that may be filed against them on the Manila Bay rehabilitation.

Cebu-based journalist Dale Israel contributed to this report