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Akbayan denounces SC for ‘hands-off’ approach in Manila Bay’s artificial white sand project

THE Supreme Court took a “hands-off approach” when it denied Akbayan’s motion to reprimand the Environment department for its controversial “white sand” project along the coast of Manila Bay, the party-list said in a statement on Friday.

“The Supreme Court has taken, quite sadly, a hands-off approach on an issue of transcendental importance. By denying our motion to intervene in the 2008 Manila Bay environmental protection case, it failed to help the public determine the safeness and sustainability of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) dolomite sand dumping along the Manila Bay,” Akbayan Chair Emeritus Etta P. Rosales said in a statement.

“It lost the opportunity to protect the rights of Filipinos to a balanced and healthful ecology,” she said.

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Akbayan’s motion to “intervene with prayer” to hold the DENR in contempt for installing artificial white sand on a portion of Manila Bay.

“The Court held that it has not yet found any violation of the continuing mandamus amidst the quarterly reports submitted by the concerned agencies and the on-site ocular inspection conducted by the Manila Bay Advisory Committee (MBAC),” the SC said.

It explained that the project was not an “allied or related activity sanctioned by the writ, and this could hardly be objectively measured as a deviation from the government’s mandate.”

It added that the contention lies with the material used to carry the project out — the crushed dolomite.

“The Court held that the instant recourse is a challenge to the wisdom behind the use of the component dolomite, which is a factual issue not ordinarily entertained by the Court,” the high court said.

Akbayan said the high tribunal’s decision was “discouraging.” Public policy think-tank Infrawatch PH convenor Terry L. Ridon told BusinessWorld that the rejection of Akbayan’s petition was “unfortunate, but expected because of the procedural concerns on the petition.”

“This, however, does not preclude a full Writ of Kalikasan petition at a future time. A kalikasan petition will be more exhaustive than the dismissed petition,” Mr. Ridon said in an email message on Friday.

When earlier sought for comment on the artificial white sand project, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the agency is “prepared to defend their decision.” — Angelica Y. Yang

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