ENVIRONMENT Sec. Roy Cimatu on late Tuesday afternoon defended before a House budget briefing the use of dolomite white sand from Cebu’s crushed dolomite rocks to transform the Manila Bay shoreline into a white-sand beach, stressing it is not a health hazard and underwent a technical study.
Cimatu pointed this out during the House committee on appropriations deliberations on the proposed budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the proposed P4.506 trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP) of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration for 2021.
“We are really very sure of the safety of the use of dolomite in that area,” Cimatu stressed during the budget briefing following previous warnings from the Department of Health (DoH) regarding its possible health hazards.
“Dolomite in its natural state is not a known health hazard,” Cimatu said, recalling that the Manila Bay’s beautification project was an offshoot of the mandamus issued by the Supreme Court (SC) for the government to clean up the area.
Cimatu added there was no complaint received from several private establishments and resorts using dolomite.
“A public beach using dolomite is in Dalaguete, Cebu, that for the last six years, no issues or complaints were raised also,” Cimatu said. “So I stand by this research coming from our Bureau of Mines and Geosciences.”
“It is not listed by the Mines Safety and Health Association, Occupational Safety and Health Association or even in the International Agency for Research Of Cancer as a carcinogen,” Cimatu said.
“What is hazardous is the fine silica quartz in some dolomite in the form of dust that is generated during crushing and screening, not the calcium or magnesium (components),” Cimatu explained, adding that the dolomite beach for the artificial rehabilitation of Manila Bay will be 100 meters wide and 60 meters deep once finished.
“So ito ang ginagawa natin ngayon, nilinisan, binawasan natin ‘yung water quality na masama diyan dahil sa paglagay natin ng treatment plant diyan sa baywalk,” he said.
Cimatu added that the size of the dolomite sand, which has a striking white color, being used for beach nourishment project in Manila Bay “is 2 to 5 millimeters or equivalent to 2,000 to 5,000 microns or 100 times bigger than dust and therefore not suspended in air and cannot be inhaled.”
The DENR secretary also explained that the P389 million funds are sourced from a special purpose fund under the P4.1 trillion 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
“Mayroon ding component sa 2020 pero iba na ‘yung paggagamitan nun sa 2020. Continuous ito dahil ito multi-year ito. Sa akin nga, baka hindi pa natin matapos in two years ito dahil maraming component diyan,” Cimatu said.
He also stressed that the decision to use dolomite underwent a technical study by the department, adding the project is covered by a broader Manila Bay rehabilitation project that was begun with the extensive cleanup last year.
“Yung nakikita po ninyo na tinatambak na dolomite d’yan ay kasama sa proseso. Lalagyan po kasi namin ng konting beach d’yan. Pagdaong mo kasi d’yan noon tuloy tubig na kaya ang daming nadidisgrasya,” Cimatu noted.
Cimatu also told lawmakers that the process of nourishing properties of dolomite can turn acidity in water to alkalinity.
The DENR chief recalled that his department initially considered volcanic lahar for Baywalk beautification, but decided to drop the plan because the grain it produced was too fine and could produce mud.
Later on, Cimatu said the DENR learned about dolomite, which since the mid-90s has been used by popular beaches in Mactan, Cebu.
According to Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones, the DENR spent P28 million for the acquisition and transport of dolomite from a municipality in Cebu.
Leones told the appropriations panel that the amount is just six percent of the P389 million entire budget of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program.
“That covers the price of dolomite sand, transportation cost, taxes, and other fees. Kasi package na delivery nun from Cebu to Manila Bay,” said Leones.