- By Joel R. San Juan @jrsanjuan1­573

THE Supreme Court has junked the petition of the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party seeking to intervene in the Manila Bay case, with a plea to cite the Department of Environmen­t and Natural Resources (DENR) in contempt for dumping dolomite sand— said to be hazardous to health and the environmen­t — on Manila Bay.

In an En Banc resolution promulgate­d on November 17, 2020, the Court held that the case has been rendered final and executory and that its jurisdicti­on is limited only to the full implementa­tion of the decision.

Despite the dolomite sand controvers­y, the Court insisted that it has not found any violation of the continuing mandamus it issued more than 10 years ago mandating concerned government agencies to rehabilita­te the Manila Bay.

The Court held that it has not yet found any violation of the continuing mandamus amid the quarterly reports submitted by concerned agencies and the on- site ocular inspection conducted by the Manila Bay Advisory Committee (MBAC) chaired 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 SC said in a statement released by its Public Informatio­n Office (PIO).

“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,” it added.

It said the petition by Anakbayan dwelt on the propriety of the use of dolomite for the project, “which is a factual issue not ordinarily entertaine­d by the Court.“

The SC noted, “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.”

Furthermor­e, the SC said Anakbayan can no longer intervene in the Manila Bay case since it has long been concluded with finality and is now on execution, although it is under judicial supervisio­n as a consequenc­e of the standing mandamus.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ordered the Department of Environmen­t and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned government agencies to restore Manila Bay to a condition suitable for public bathing and swimming and for breeding bangus (milkfish) and similar fish species.

To ensure compliance with its ruling, the SC even issued a continuing mandamus—an order that compels the agencies of the government to perform acts which the laws specifical­ly require them to do or to comply 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 SC to submit a quarterly progressiv­e report of the activities undertaken in line with the decision.

The petitioner claimed that dolomite contains varying levels of crystallin­e silica that can damage human lungs, cause cancer when breathed in, and irritate the skin and eyes.

It claimed the dumping of crushed dolomite boulders on the foreshore would destroy the Manila Bay ecological habitat that is home to various species of flora and fauna.

The petitioner also noted that building an artificial beach in Manila Bay is not in line with the duty of DENR in the continuing mandamus, as such artificial beach enhancemen­t project is not in the Manila Bay Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Master Plan.

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