When sand gets in your eyes


    MY mom loved old songs. Well, I guess for her they weren’t old songs but contemporary songs. She would play the piano especially on weekends and sometimes, depending on the mood, some of us would sing along. This went on for quite some time until the Bee Gees came along and I would play 45 rpm records on the stereo and my mom (who would retreat into the bedroom) would complain that the singers sounded like men having their gonads squeezed.

    And squeezed hard.

    One of her favorites was “Smoke gets in your eyes,” and yes, it was (and is) a lovely song. Released in 1960 (I wasn’t born yet) by The Platters, it speaks of someone in love who was warned that love clouds a person’s thinking (“when your heart’s on fire, you must realize, smoke gets in your eyes”), but who braved on. Until one day his heart is broken and his eyes are filled with tears, which he is able to rationalize (“when a lovely flame dies, smoke gets in your eyes’).

    I guess when you’re in love, even sand can get in your eyes. But as the character in the song finds out soon enough, sand (even more than smoke) can get tears – and worse – in your eyes as well.

    ‘No matter how much the DDS proclaim to the world how this is another wise move under the leadership of the greatest president in the galaxy, their face shields are protecting them from getting sand into their eyes.’

    The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has generally been on an even keel since Gen. Roy A. Cimatu took over. Admittedly, the short term of the late Gina Lopez was like a wild roller coaster ride, with the Secretary wielding a broom against erring mining operations that, however, wasn’t too discriminating. The result was an industry in a free fall with deleterious impact on remote mining communities totally dependent on the social and development management programs (SDMP) that are required by law to be funded by the mining operations. When she was rejected by the Commission on Appointments, my initial reaction was it was going to be good for the mining industry in two ways: she could return to the private sector where she could reactivate her advocacy and become in effect the “Ombudsman” of the industry, while the DENR could revert to become an objective policymaker that did its best in harmonizing the Environment and Natural Resources sides of its personality, admittedly sometimes not so easy to do.

    Thankfully, RAC (as the current Secretary is referred to) kept many of Ms. Lopez’s strict impositions on erring mining operations in place. Some of the more “over-reaching” ones were reversed, but gradually, and after considered review – and that’s why the industry has been able to recover some ground lost between 2016 and 2017. And when the pandemic hit, the DENR, through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, was quick to order mining operations to consider anti-COVID programs in their communities as part of their SDMP for this year. This is why many mining communities have had better access to test kits and face masks and even food parcels; and in the rare times that a handful of positive cases have been identified, the mining operations in cooperation with the host LGUS were always quick to respond, snuffing out the potential spread within the usual two-week period.

    I thus find it unfortunate that the DENR is taking a hit with the “Manila Bay Sands” project, but justifiably so, for a number of reasons. First, it does not address the principal problem of Manila Bay – which is that it has become the cesspool of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, compounded by the apparent dumping of oily waste from the cargo and passenger ships that frequent it. Second, communities along its shores – mainly Metro Manila and towns in Cavite and Bulacan and even Bataan – end up having their garbage washing into the bay, and these in turn end up washing ashore along the Roxas Boulevard Baywalk area and the area next to the Folk Arts Center, the Manila Yacht Club and the Philippine Navy. Third, the rivers and esteros that feed into the bay – the Pasig, for one, as well as some from Bulacan – not only bring human and residential waste, but also chemical waste, especially since there are tanneries in Bulacan for whom the rivers are said to be the perfect outlets for industrial waste.

    Put together the three causes above and the result is blackish (not brackish) water that has a stink – there have been times when I have attended meetings at the Yacht Club and you wouldn’t want to take a deep breath for fear of damaging your lungs permanently. (On the other hand, nowadays it would be a good test of your being negative for the coronavirus, yes?).

    So the idea of a white sand shoreline for Manila Bay – which I suppose would encourage people to come over and take a dip? – would be a boon to both dermatology and respiratory specialists. But otherwise a bad idea. It’s like something Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin Tauncheski would do, he who put up fake villages (hence the “Potemkin village”) along the route taken by his beloved Empress Catherine the Great to make her believe everything was fine and dandy in the impoverished Russian countryside.

    It smacks of being a band-aid solution to a problem with deep roots. And I for one would like to think that most people in the DENR and its agencies (the EMB, the MGB etc) would prefer to get to the bottom of the issue and work from there, no matter how politically sensitive the steps they have to take may be.

    And that, definitely, is not by applying layers of Cebu dolomite to what will never be the replacement to the Lido Beach in the Cavite of my youth. No matter how much the DDS proclaim to the world how this is another wise move under the leadership of the greatest president in the galaxy, their face shields are protecting them from getting sand into their eyes.