Preventing another tragedy: Why Cebu province banned dolomite mining

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 09 2020 08:08 AM

Workers spread white sand along a portion of the Baywalk in Manila Bay on Sept. 3, 2020 as part of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program by the DENR. The white sand, which comes from Cebu, will be spread from the banks of the bay near the US Embassy to the Yacht Club. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Cebu banned the extraction of dolomite being used as artificial white sand along the Manila Bay to prevent a repeat of the 2018 landslide that killed nearly 80 people in the province, an official said Wednesday. 

Cebu officials did not give any permit and was not consulted for the mining of Alcoy town’s dolomite boulders that were crushed and dumped in Manila Bay. Instead, this was allowed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said Cebu’s legal management consultant, Marino Martinquilla. 

The MGB also permitted mining of limestone in Naga, Cebu, where at least 77 people died in a landslide in September 2018, he said. 

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia on Tuesday stopped mining operations in Alcoy. 

“The governor does not want another tragedy to happen in Cebu,” Martinquilla told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo. 

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Despite the permit from MGB, he said the mining operations violated several environmental laws, including failure to coordinate with the local government and lack of a study on its impact on Alcoy, home to an endangered bird species. 

Mining companies also contest before the court a Cebu local ordinance levying the extraction of minerals. The province only gets “minimal” excise taxes, he said. 

“The province of Cebu has not been given its fare share in terms of revenue in this extraction,” Martinquilla said. 

Garcia has ordered a ground and aerial survey to determine the extent of mining in Alcoy, he said. 

Several environment groups and experts have questioned the Manila Bay makeover, saying waves might just wash away the sand and dolomite could be harmful to the health

Some critics also said the funds could have been better used to help Filipinos cope with the coronavirus pandemic. 

The dumping of artificial white sand around Manila Bay was planned before the pandemic and the government cannot junk the contract for this project without a valid reason, Mayor Isko Moreno had said. 

Funds for the P389-million Manila Bay rehabilitation that started 2 years ago cannot be diverted for the pandemic, the environment agency earlier said. Engineering interventions would keep the sand in place, it added.