Shipping out sand

April 08, 2019

It’s survival instinct.

No, make it plain common sense.

When a critically important and finite natural resource is in short supply globally, then the only recourse for the country is to keep all available local supply for itself.

It doesn’t get any simpler than this.

But don’t take our word for it.

Instead, listen to the wisdom of a veteran and very discerning lawmaker on the matter of conserving a vital resource not only for community development but for national progress.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Senate probe into the "poaching or export of sand and other landfill materials" should cover not only the reported sand dredging in Batangas "but similar cases in other parts of the country."

Recto said he filed a resolution that will inquire into the sand extraction attempt of a Chinese-manned dredging ship off the coast of Lobo, Batangas, and "if this incident is happening in other areas as well."

"Have we become a land reclamation material supplier? Are we exporting our sand?" Recto said.

"If our mountains have been flattened and transported ship by ship to reclaim islands, some of which are within our territory, then that is land transfer of the worst kind," he said.

Recto said if reports are true that the Chinese ship was dredging sand for use in the building of Hong Kong airport's third runway, "then it is our second contribution to the project - the first being the P700 million that Filipino travellers pay a year for the expansion of the Hong Kong airport."

"It is in the fine print of a round-trip plane ticket to Hong Kong. Nasa ticket 'yan. You pay 90 Hong Kong dollars as Hong Kong airport construction fee," Recto said.

Given the global shortage of sand and rising local demand for the construction material, Recto said it is time for government to review existing policies on sand and gravel quarrying, transport and sale.

"There are many provinces in the country that are sand and gravel poor. Kaya tumataas ang home construction cost kasi minsan binabarko pa ang mga ito from one province to another. Many government road projects have been delayed by the lack of gravel and aggregates," he said.

"Six million units ang housing shortage natin. These can't be wiped out without sand. Sa farm roads pa lang, mga 15,000 kilometers remain to be paved, and these require gravel. Domestic construction is a P2.4 trillion a year industry, all dependent on sand, gravel and aggregates. This is the big picture," he said.