CHIEF Justice Diosdado Peralta inspected yesterday the controversial “white sands beach” project at Manila Bay and said he was impressed with the results of the ongoing efforts by government agencies led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to rehabilitate the area.
Peralta was accompanied by Associate Justices Mario Lopez and Ricardo Rosario, the newest member of the SC. They were accompanied by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
Before the inspection, Peralta held a meeting with Cimatu and was apprised of developments in the clean-up of Manila Bay.
Peralta, however, declined to comment on the environmental impact of the dolomite used by the DENR to pave over an area of the bay due to the pending petition filed by Akbayan Citizens Aksyon Party seeking to cite in contempt the agency for dumping dolomite sand in the area as part of its P389 million beautification project.
Peralta said he will be the ponente of the petition that will be discussed on November 3 because he is the only one left among the justices who rendered the 2008 SC mandamus order requiring the DENR and other government agencies to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay.
SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said Cimatu discussed with Peralta and the other justices the clean-up activities being undertaken by the department such as the removal of garbage in the bay and in Manila’s river systems, esteros and water quality improvement, among others.
Cimatu also told Peralta of the DENR’s hiring of “estero rangers” to clean up esteros and disseminate information to nearby communities about solid waste management.
Hosaka said the meeting was an initiative of Peralta as chairperson of the SC Manila Bay Advisory Committee. SC Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda is the vice chair of the committee, with Associate Justice Edgardo Delos Santos and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez as members.
Peralta required the DENR and 13 other government agencies tasked by the SC in its 2008 mandamus order to “submit a quarterly report on its progress.” Peralta also “asked the DENR to submit scientific studies and findings as to the effect of dolomite to the people.”
The Department of Health had earlier said crushed dolomite can posed health risks such as respiratory problems. The DOH, however, later backtracked.
“We came here to observe and determine how far they have gone with the observation and obedience to the continuing mandamus,” Peralta said, adding that based on initial reports and observation the water coming out of the waste water treatment plant in the bay is now clean.
In its petition, Akbayan said the DENR violated the SC’s continuing mandamus order since the dumping of dolomite will not rehabilitate and restore Manila Bay as a natural habitat.
It added that building an artificial white sands beach in Manila Bay is not in line with the DENR’s duty in the mandamus since it is not in the Manila Bay Sustainable Master Development Plan.