HOW do you solve a problem like a dolomite-based white makeover of Manila Bay? It’s complicated.
First, you look at the venue. That is where it all began. Manila Bay is unattractive because it is dirty and it is dirty because it does not have a white beach like Boracay’s. Or so think planners at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Last year, the DENR set in motion the process of Manila Bay’s conversion by proposing in the 2020 budget an allocation of P389 million for “beach nourishment on the Manila Baywalk.” Congress passed it without question.
A few weeks ago, pictures of what looked like white sand piles on the baywalk appeared in the newspapers. The inevitable questions followed. What was the government up to? Was it not wasting money that could have been better spent elsewhere?
When the DENR clarified that the “white sand” was actually dolomite sourced from Cebu, more questions arose and the situation became even more complicated. Is dolomite not harmful to the environment? Is it not in fact poisonous?
The mention of Cebu immediately raised alarm bells in the Provincial Government. How could have such a huge amount of minerals been extracted from the island’s belly and transported to Manila without their knowledge?
A disappointed Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia took matters into her own hands and after meeting with local DENR officials, stopped, through an executive order, the “extracting, processing, selling and transporting dolomite, associated mineral deposits and other quarry resources” in Alcoy.
The order would have completely shut down the operations of the dolomite mines (and the operators would have deserved it) until the governor, apparently realizing the potential damage that such a closure would cause, clarified that her cease and desist order covered only the further transport of dolomite shipments to Manila.
The DENR cannot be blamed for its determination to finish their “Boracay in Manila Bay” project. Congress gave them the money and they must have already spent a sizeable sum from it. It’s too late to stop now; it would be a waste of public money. Besides, most of the objections raised against the project are based on speculation. For example, mounds of dolomite have been stacked along the highway in Alcoy for as long as I can remember. How many residents have died from poisoning?
However, the DENR should have been more transparent by informing the people, without being asked that they’re using dolomite, instead of sand in their beautification project. Was it because they did not want us, Cebuanos, to take notice? If so, then there is more reason for an apology to us for causing the transport of a part of Cebu, even how small, without coordinating with our provincial officials.