Cimatu: Manila Bay rehab ‘Top Priority’ till 2022

Determined to make Manila Bay’s waters fit for swimming by the time President Duterte steps down in 2022, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is gearing up to sustain the gains of the “Battle for Manila Bay.”

The rehabilitation of Manila Bay, which followed the successful campaign in Boracay and continuing efforts in several popular beaches-cum tourism areas in the country, topped the DENR’s year-end accomplishment report to Malacañang this year.

In a statement, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the rehabilitation of Manila Bay will remain the DENR’s top priority in the next three years.  

While rehabilitating a heavily polluted body of water is proving to be an extremely difficult task, the official said he is more determined than ever to win the battle to restore the historic bay’s water to its pristine state.

Cimatu, who chairs the Manila Bay Task Force (MBTF), reported that while much has been achieved since the Manila Bay rehabilitation kicked off with the launch of the Battle for Manila Bay on January 26, “much more needs to be done” to achieve the ultimate goal of making it fit again for swimming, and other forms of contact recreation.

“Our effort to restore Manila Bay is now in full swing and we hope to sustain the momentum of restoring it to its former glory in the coming years,” the country’s chief steward for the environment and natural resources said. 

The ongoing rehabilitation is currently in its first phase or the cleanup and water quality monitoring phase.

The next two phases will involve the massive relocation of informal settlers in addition to more rehabilitation works plus the all-important education, protection and sustainment aspect of the campaign.

The MBTF has identified 44,125 informal settler families living within the Manila Bay region. A total of 51 families—specifically situated along Estero de San Antonio de Abad—were already relocated to Tala, Caloocan City, ahead of the target date of the massive relocation.

In line with this, 547 kilometers of easements have been delineated in NCR and Central Luzon.

In 2019, the ambitious rehabilitation program kept DENR officials and employees, including that of its attached agencies, bureaus and services on their toes.

As of September 26, the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) inspected 9,708 commercial establishments around Manila Bay. Of this number, 2,478 were issued notices of violations and 107 were slapped with cease-and-desist orders.

Since the rehabilitation started in January, close to 70,000 volunteers from the NCR, Central Luzon and Calabarzon have collected over 2.3 million kg of waste through cleanups, trash boats and garbage traps.

A total of 70 stations were monitored in the Manila Bay region—31 bathing beaches, 18 river mouths, 16 drainage outfalls, and five rivers.

To improve the ecosystem in the area, the DENR led the planting of native and fruit-bearing tree seedlings, and mangrove propagules.

The agency also intensified its information and education campaign (IEC) on the importance of rehabilitating Manila Bay by conducting over 120 seminars, training, and activities participated in by more than 8,100 individuals. The DENR also came out with 3,574 printed materials, such as on the ongoing rehabilitation, as well as nine information campaigns and 43 updates posted on various social-media platforms.

Cimatu said the interventions related to IEC will further increase as the rehabilitation progresses. “We hope that communities will imbibe the knowledge that was handed to them in ensuring the cleanliness in areas they live in,” he said. The DENR also reactivated its coordination with 12 other government agencies covered by the 2008 Supreme Court continuing mandamus for the cleanup, rehabilitation, and preservation of Manila Bay. 


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