EXPLAINER: Crushed dolomite for Manila Bay's 'white beach': Cebu Provincial Board may look into breach of agreement, not legality. Extraction, processing, hauling of sand covered by contract and law.

Photos from Facebook account of Philippine Mining Service Corporation

THE SITUATION. Cebu Provincial Board Member John Ismael Borgonia has made some noise over the report that the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Project was using fine sand to cover a 500-meter stretch of shore. The synthetic fine sand turned out to be to be crushed dolomite rocks hauled from Cebu.

Last September 4, Borgonia said the PB didn't know whether the hauling was permitted and would investigate why the local government has not been informed although the Manila Bay project is undertaken by the national government.

The next working day, Monday, September 7, Borgonia retreated, saying the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) certified that permit was given for the ferrying to Manila of 3,500 wet metric tons of crushed dolomite. Grantee was Philippine Mining Service Corp. (PMSC), which has the sole right under contract to process materials from Dolomite Mining Corp. (DMC) in Alcoy, Cebu.

CONTRACTS WITH GOVERNMENT. Extracting the dolomite is covered by a government mining agreement with DMC and processing it by a mineral product sharing agreement between the government and PMSC: both contracts good for 25 years. The hauling is covered by an MGB-Central Visayas permit to PMSC, in this case, the shipment of crushed dolomite from Alcoy to Manila.

The PB would not assail the contracts with DMC, the miner, and PMSC, the processor. Neither would local lawmakers question the MGB hauling permit.

So what might PB look into, if it would? Not the validity of the government contracts with DMC and PMSC, unless it has evidence of defect of the deals. The permit to haul is above-board, or so Borgonia thinks. If the price is over-priced, in case government fixers rigged the price with PMSC, would that be PB's concern? The money and the project are national.

PB'S AUTHORITY. Under the law, authority of the Province, through the Provincial Board, over extraction of minerals, including sand and gravel, within its jurisdiction is "only as far as five hectares of mining claims," a source told SunStar.

The mining claims DMC in Alcoy total as much 571 hectares and an estimated balance of dolomite deposits of 220,000 metric tons, one source said.

It does not mean though that Capitol cannot use its authority to call attention to abuses of the mining grant or non-enforcement of the laws protecting the environment, or to such matters as the health of residents nearby or the safety of mining workers.

OUR PROBLEMS; THEIR PROBLEMS. What the PB members might wish to know is how mining and processing of dolomite rocks has been affecting the environment in Alcoy and the concern over public health and safety of the people there.

The contract with DMC, the miner, and that with PMSC, the processor, still have until 2030 and 2023, respectively, to expire. How much damage, in any, has the town, particularly in Barangay Pugalo, suffered from the extraction of dolomite?

As to the problems in Manila that the bay rehabilitation is allegedly causing, the PB expectedly would keep its hands off it.

It's the concern of Metro Manila LGUs, along with the national government, whether the warnings raised by environmentalists, fisherfolk, concerned citizens and lately the Department of Health should prompt the scrapping of the project.

SUPREME COURT ORDER. Cebu province has enough problems of its own. Besides, "segmenting" the problem would be more effective in this facet of governance.

And more seemly: Cebu cannot tell Manila that dolomite may not appropriately be included in the Supreme Court's order to 13 government agencies "to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay and restore and maintain its waters..."

Is draping the baywalk with synthetic sand not among the tasks just recited? "Of course not," said Manila-based Cebuano journalist Jesse E.L. Bacon II. The local PB doesn't have to weigh in too.


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