Saving Manila Bay

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

The Manila Bay of my childhood was a vast expanse of blue seen from the glass elevator of the then famous Silahis International Hotel along Roxas Boulevard. My brothers and I used to spend some weekends in that hotel during summers of decades ago, thanks to our dad who had an office there.

The view from the famed elevator was always spectacular. Roxas Boulevard, formerly called Dewey Boulevard in honor of American Admiral George Dewey, was lined with coconut trees that swayed with the breeze.

Manila Bay was picture perfect as the setting sun glimmered on the waters like thousands of diamond studs.

Today, Silahis Hotel no longer exists after it was closed years ago because of tax problems. The building still stands, but there’s nothing but a vibe so eerie that Carlos Celdran stopped short of describing it as ghostly: “Its round darkened windows now stare upon its neighbors like hundreds of dead eyes.”

Just like the hotel, Manila Bay, too, went from good to bad, from breathtaking to ugly, from livable to eerie. Today, the once famous Manila icon has become a giant garbage dumpsite with tons and tons of trash dumped into it every day.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu is right in saying that Manila Bay is in critical condition.

“Manila Bay is in critical condition and proper wastewater discharge and solid waste disposal play a key role to reviving it,” he said.

I am actually pleased to know that the government is determined to rehabilitate Manila Bay starting on Sunday, Jan. 27. It will cost roughly P45 billion.

Cimatu said establishments, including government offices near Manila Bay, must ensure that they are connected to sewer lines or have their own sewage treatment plants (STP) for proper wastewater disposal.

He reminded them to manage their solid waste to minimize garbage that end up in landfills or oceans.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Cimatu warned, would clamp down on all establishments discharging untreated wastewater either directly into the Manila Bay or into esteros and rivers leading to the bay.

 “We will issue notices of violation to non-compliant establishments or we will shut them down. Until they comply, they cannot operate,” he said.


Cimatu said that by properly educating the public, the rehabilitation of Manila Bay may actually succeed.

He said the 2,000-square kilometer bay has been found to have extreme levels of coliform. The bacteria came from waste spilled by the esteros or estuaries in Metro Manila.

The long-term goal is to reduce the coliform level to 100 most probable numbers per 100 milliliters (MPN/100ml) or low enough for the bay to be safe for swimming.

Currently, the level is at an alarming level of 333 million MPN/100ml.

Ecosystem Technologies

The government will spend a whopping P45 billion for the massive rehabilitation. It could be more.

For the plan to succeed, however, it is indeed important for establishments to have a treatment plant as Cimatu said.

A well designed STP requires space, but one company – Ecosystem Technologies International Inc. – said it can construct an underground STP.

For the STP to be viable, it must not emit toxic fumes.

Ecosystem Technologies has pioneered this approach in over 600 completed projects over the last 23 years.

Some of the projects are located along the Manila Bay, these include STPs in the City of Dreams, in Okada Manila, SM Mall of Asia, and the US Embassy Manila in Roxas Boulevard.

Ecosystem, which is part of the MVP Group, said its STPs perform better than other STPs, allowing the developers to recycle the water for non-potable application use such as rest rooms, firefighting, plant care or landscape maintenance.

The technology is based on a proprietary technology, the so-called Sequence Bio Reactor of Ecosystem.

It is a technology acknowledged by the Department of Science and Technology in the 2018 Technology Fair as a viable solution for water security and sanitation.

Now on its third generation, the technology has been deployed by Ecosystem in over 600 projects in the property development as well as the industrial sectors all over the Philippines.

Major corporations in the Philippines have benefitted from Ecosystem’s proprietary water recycling and reuse technologies, the company said.

I am sure that Manila Bay and the establishments around it would greatly benefit from whatever help in can get.

It is important to recycle so that Manila Bay becomes a sustainable ecosystem.

Who knows, maybe someday we can see the Manila Bay of the olden days once again and enjoy a cleaner bay without the tons of garbage and bacteria filled water.

I am dreaming, yes I am. But isn’t our country worth fighting for? Isn’t Manila’s iconic natural harbor, the one with the world famous view of the iconic sunset, worth dreaming of?

Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales.

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