The growing interest on how seabed quarrying could affect the coastal and marine habitats, and the nearby communities, their livelihood, and even our food security was the topic of a recently held online colloquium organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and Oceana Philippines last November 8, 2021. The event is related to the campaign to save and defend Manila Bay.
For her opening message, Dr. Rhodora V. Azanza, Academician and President of NAST, mentioned that the science and technology community has a responsibility to provide science-based recommendations on policy and decision making to protect our coastal and marine biodiversity.
Dr. Rico C. Ancog, Dean of the University of the Philippines-School of Environmental Science and Management (UPLB-SESAM), elaborated on some concepts and cases related to the costs and benefits of seabed quarrying and offshore ore mining. Being a contentious issue, he elaborated on the role of an analysts to not just look into the physical impacts of the seabed quarrying but also in valuation of such impacts.
Dr. Ancog defined seabed quarrying citing the PDENR A.A. 2000-2, which is “the process of extracting, removing and/or disposing quarry resources found in offshore areas”, while offshore mining or the deep-sea mining as the, “process of extracting minerals and deposits submerged in the seafloor.”
He added, defining and understanding the context is important to appreciate how such a process will proceed because the analysis of the cost and benefits may guide whether seabed mining is warranted, and how it can better proceed.
Dr. Ancog highlighted that before proceeding to a certain project, it is crucial to examine the status of the existing ecosystem of the area. Manila Bay, as pointed out in his presentation, is very economically active and is densely populated. The place is also highly susceptible to flooding. Citing several studies, he highlighted a number of existing issues in Manila Bay such as the loss of seagrass habitat due to land conversion, sedimentation, overfishing, destructive fishing, and overexploitation of resources, among others.
With these descriptions of the Manila Bay, Dr. Ancog discussed that the ability to identify and quantify the benefits and costs is crucial to the conduct of a comprehensive, and integrative assessment. He highlighted the three things that need to be considered when doing an economic analysis, and these are 1) The impacts (positive and negative); 2) Quantification of those impacts across the project life; and 3) Monetization of those impacts.
“And we, as analysts, make recommendations based on the results of such analysis,” Dr. Ancog stressed.
In consideration with the limitations on the existing data, the thriving industries and economic activities in Manila Bay registered positive direct and indirect values. “With these estimates of the current value of the existing coastal and marine resources, this points us to the direction of what we will forego due to seabed mining” Dr.Ancog added.
He also presented sample studies in the case of Cook Island Nodule Mining where the listing of the cost items (private cost and environmental and social cost) is notable. Another sample study he showed is the seabed mining in the Republic of Marshall Islands.
Joining Dr. Ancog in this session was Dr. Fernando P. Siringan, an Academician from the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman. He discussed the sediment cover of Lingayen Gulf and Manila Bay and elaborated on a number of potential physical impacts of seabed quarrying and ore mining.
This online event also invited representatives from the DILG, PINSAMALA, Pangisda Pilipinas, and FARMC and continued the discussions on emerging issues from different perspectives to be able to understand what really is the effect of different activities on the ocean.