The Supreme Court has denied the petition filed by the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party seeking to intervene in the Manila Bay case, pleading with the tribunal to cite the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in contempt for dumping dolomite sand on Manila Bay.
The group claims dolomite is hazardous to health and the environment.
In a resolution on Nov. 17, 2020, the high court ruled that the Manila Bay case had been rendered final and that its jurisdiction was limited to the full implementation of the decision.
The high court says it finds no violation of the continuing mandamus that it issued more than 10 years ago mandating 13 concerned government agencies to rehabilitate Manila Bay.
The high court said it had not yet found any violation of the continuing mandamus amid the quarterly reports submitted by concerned agencies and the on-site inspection conducted by the Manila Bay Advisory Committee led by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.
“The specific directive to the DENR and the concerned agencies and departments is simply to clean the waters of the bay and perform maintenance measures to keep it within the legal standards of cleanliness fit for recreation,” the high court said in a statement released by its Public Information Office.
“The contention is bred only when the alleged hazardous potential of the component dolomite enters the picture, whereby it becomes clear that the bone of contention all along is not the project per se but the material used to carry it out.”
The high court said the petition by Akbayan dwelt on the propriety of the use of dolomite for the project, “which is a factual issue not ordinarily entertained by the Court.”
“It is a challenge that properly lies in the realm of political questions which the Court may not venture into even incidentally in a contempt proceeding under the given circumstances.”
Besides, the high court said, Anakbayan could no longer intervene in the Manila Bay case since it had long been concluded with finality and was now on execution, although it was under judicial supervision as a consequence of the standing mandamus.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other government agencies to restore Manila Bay to a condition suitable for public bathing and swimming and for breeding milkfish and similar fish species.
To ensure compliance with its ruling, the high court even issued a continuing mandamus: an order that compels the agencies of the government to perform acts that the laws specifically require them to do or to comply with as duties emanating from the nature and mandate of their offices.
Aside from the DENR, the other agencies tasked to undertake immediate action on the Manila Bay problem are the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Budget and Management, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Philippine Ports Authority.
These government agencies were directed by the high court to submit quarterly progressive reports of the activities undertaken in accordance with the decision.
Akbayan claims that dolomite contains varying levels of crystalline silica that can damage human lungs, cause cancer when breathed and irritate the skin and eyes.
The group also claims the dumping of crushed dolomite boulders on the foreshore will destroy the Manila Bay ecological habitat that is home to various species of flora and fauna.
The petitioner also claims that building an artificial beach on Manila Bay is not in line with the duty of the DENR in the continuing mandamus as such an artificial beach enhancement project is not in the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan.