Seares: 'Shutdown' of dolomite companies in Alcoy, Cebu: Capitol may look into health, safety of workers, townspeople.

News Sense

THE news story about Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia's September 8 order to the two companies in Alcoy, which provided crushed dolomite rocks for the Manila Bay rehabilitation project, has some gaps that need to be filled:

[1] STOPPING EXTRACTION: Dolomite Mining Corp. (DMC), the miner, has been ordered to stop extraction of the mineral. Does the order cover all mining activity or only that involving or affecting the Manila Bay project?

[2] STOPPING TRANSPORT. The order was reportedly given to Philippine Mining Service Corp. PMSC, the processor, must also want to know if transporting dolomite is totally banned by the Capitol order or is prohibited only if the supply goes to the Manila Bay project.

DMC under contract turns over all raw dolomite minerals to PMSC, which converts into forms and sizes ordered by the customer.

Governor's concern

Governor Gwen Garcia's concern was that the two companies didn't inform Capitol or the town about the shipment and use. Probably the Mines and

Geosciences Bureau didn't think that was required under existing law and regulations. MGB issued the August 26 permit to transport, presumably following its protocol.

Do the rules require public hearing by the Provincial Board or the Alcoy Town Council? Maybe not. When John Ismael Borgonia, chairman of the PB committee on environment, learned that the shipment of crushed dolomite rocks to Manila was covered by an MGB permit, he backed off his plan for a PB inquiry, saying he has "faith" in the procedure and the officials enforcing them.

As to the mining of the dolomite, DMC enjoys a 25-year grant from the government, which, it must be assumed, was studied and reviewed, especially on environmental impact.

As processor of the minerals DMC mines, PMSC is given the same 25-year agreement.

Has there been a serious violation of the terms of the mining or processing grant or a threat to public health or safety of residents by any of the two grantees, which may be ground for suspension or revocation of the deal?

Violations, if any

Is extraction of dolomite in Barangay Pulgo in Alcoy town a violation under the DMC contract with the government?

Is the transporting and/or marketing of dolomite to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) or its Manila Bay contractor a violation of the contract with PMSC, the processor? DMC may have nothing to do with the movement of dolomite: it mines and turns over the raw material to PMSC.

Delivered in full?

Then there's the matter of contract performance. PMSC was contracted for 3,500 wet metric tons of crushed dolomite, for a short stretch of the baywalk. And, from news reports, it looked like it was already done. There were media photos of synthetic fine sand, produced from the crushed dolomite rocks, being spread or in huge mounds on the shoreline against the Manila Bay backdrop. Already delivered in full?

Stopping extraction of dolomite for delivery to the Manila Bay project may be like stopping the cutting and bundling of hay, which is allegedly unsuitable to a specified stable of horses. The metaphor may not be compelling enough for the real situation. Shutting the mining and processing firms in Alcoy could lose many townspeople's jobs and hurt further Cebu's economy.

What they may look into

The Provincial Board and the governor's office may inquire into the impact of the operations of the mining company and the dolomite processor in Alcoy town. Is it hurting the environment? Are public health and safety of its workers and town residents affected by the mining and processing operations? Maybe corrective measures could be adopted.

This is a good time to do the "best practice," which, the people cannot assume, was done before the contracts with DMC and PMSC were sealed, with the review of their impact periodically done.

Mining and processing of dolomite in Cebu is bad? Cebuanos, more particularly the Alcoyanons and the province leaders, would want to know how bad. In the same manner, Manilans would wish to be sure that no part of Manila Bay's coast would be endangered by the use of dolomite sand.

Mayor's caution

It helps if a local government knows its concern and scope of its authority when it raises the alarm and starts taking drastic moves, such as closing businesses. We may not care about how the LGUs in Metro Manila deal with their problem. Surely we want know the answer to the question as to how much dolomite will affect the people of Alcoy and the rest of Cebu.

Alcoy Mayor Michael Sistoso knew that. When he heard the news about DMC and PMSC, two big sources of jobs and town income, he cautioned, "Siguro kabalo ta og mahunong (ang duha ka kompaniya), naa pa gyud epekto."


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