Boracay-like rehab eyed for Manila Bay


File photo shows a scavenger collecting reusable materials in Manila Bay after Typhoon Ompong hit the country in September. Miguel de Guzman

Following the six-month Boracay rehabilitation, the government is looking at replicating efforts to restore Manila Bay to its pristine state fit for recreation.

“We are preparing for an all-out strategy to bring the coliform concentration in Manila Bay to a safe level so that the people who reside near the bay will enjoy its waters and marine resources without fear of getting sick,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said yesterday.

The DENR warned of potential closure of establishments along the shores of Manila Bay that do not comply with environmental regulations.

Cimatu said the government would show the same level of political will in cleaning up the bay that spans parts of the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) as it did in Boracay.

A report from the DENR Environmental Management Bureau showed that the fecal coliform level in the bay reached over 330 million most probable number per 100 milliliters, way above the safe level of only 100 MPN/100ml.

According to Cimatu, part of the DENR’s strategy is to ensure the compliance with environmental laws of local government units (LGUs) surrounding the bay.

“I am calling on the LGUs to step up their efforts in (the cleanup) because it is their constituents who will benefit from a rehabilitated Manila Bay,” he said.

A Manila Bay Command Center will be created to oversee the zonal operations of four field offices to be set up in six coastal cities in Metro Manila: Malabon-Navotas, Manila, Pasay-Parañaque and Las Piñas.

The field offices will be manned by DENR personnel, who would closely coordinate with city or municipal environment officers to ensure that cleanup activities and programs are carried out and sustained.

The DENR is also looking at technologies that would treat water of pollutants, whether directly discharged into the bay or through toilets, to address problems on human waste arising from the presence of informal settlers along the bay.

Cimatu said the DENR would also seek assistance from law enforcement agencies in going after violators of environmental laws, especially those who discharge untreated wastewater into the bay.

In 2008, the Supreme Court issued a continuing writ of mandamus, ordering 13 government agencies to clean up Manila Bay and restore its water quality to Class SB or safe for recreational activities such as swimming.

Class SB waters are also suitable for commercial propagation of shellfish and as spawning areas for milkfish and other similar species.

Manila Bay waters are considered the most polluted in the country due to domestic sewage, toxic industrial effluents from factories and shipping operations and leachate from garbage dumps, among others. –Source: Helen Flores / Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star)

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