Cimatu defends dolomite project at DENR budget hearing

Published September 8, 2020, 7:08 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu insisted before congressmen Tuesday that the dolomite sand being used on the Baywalk area of Manila Bay wasn’t a health hazard.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, chief coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response implementor in the Viayas (NTF AGAINST COVID-19 / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Dolomite in its natural state is not a known health hazard,” Cimuta said during the House Committee on Appropriations briefing on the DENR’s proposed budget under the P4.506-trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“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),” he said.

But he underscored that the dolomite sand involved in the beach nourishment project of Manila Bay was “100 times bigger than dust and therefore not suspended in air and cannot be inhaled.”

Cimatu said the decision to use dolomite–which has a striking white color–went through a technical study by the agency. He said it’s part of the broader Manila Bay rehabilitation project that was begun with the extensive cleanup of the area last year.

“Yung nakikita po ninyo na tinatambak na dolomite dyan ay kasama sa proseso. Lagyan po kasi namin konti ng beach dyan. Pagdaong mo kasi dyan noon tuloy tubig na kaya andaming nadidisgrasya (The dumping of dolomite there is part of the process. We’ll make a beach there. Back then, docking was dangerous because there was no beach to contain the water),” he noted.

He also highlighted the nourishing properties of dolomite, saying it can turn acidity in water to alkalinity.

The DENR chief said they previously considered using volcanic lahar on Baywalk, but ultimately went against it because the grain it produced was too fine and it could turn to mud. Afterward, they learned about dolomite which since the mid-90s has been used by popular beaches in Mactan, Cebu.

“We are very sure on the safety of dolomite,” stressed Cimatu.

DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones told the Appropriations panel that the agency spent P28 million for the acquisition and transport of dolomite from a municipality in Cebu. He said this is just 6 percent of the entire budget of the Manila Bay rehabilitation effort, which is P389 million.

Once finished, the dolomite beach will be 100 meters wide and 60 meters deep, Cimatu said.

Attending House members Cavite 4th district Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., AnaKalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte all seem satisfied with the DENR chief’s defense on the choice of dolomite.

“I’m fully convinced that there is no valid objection as far as this project is concerned,” said Bargaza, the Committee on Natural Resources chairman.

“Hindi ko alam kung saan nanggagaling kung may oposisyon man. Pero dito sa Kongreso, may suporta ka, umasa ka sa suporta namin. (If there is indeed opposition to it, I don’t know where it’s coming from. But here in Congress, you have support, you can expect support from us),” Defensor said.

For his part, Villafuerte said of dolomite: “Nakakalinis po siya ng tubig, ginagamit sa aquarium yan. Ginagamit po ito sa sand area sa golf. Safe po iyan. Excited na ko pumunta sa Manila Bay. Ang huling punta ko was 40 years ago. (It has water-cleaning properties, it is used in aquariums. It is used in the sand area of golf courses. That is safe. I’m excited to go to Manila Bay. My last visit there was 40 years ago).”

“I think we should give the secretary a chance,” he said.