Climate and Environment

Environment OIC says to continue Manila Bay rehab, river cleanup

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Environment OIC says to continue Manila Bay rehab, river cleanup
Crowds gather as they wait for the famous Manila Bay sunset at the Manila Dolomite Beach during its second day being open on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The officer-in-charge of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Monday he will continue the agency’s efforts in rehabilitating Manila Bay and other rivers, and improving solid waste management in the country.

DENR officer-in-charge Jim Sampulna committed to continue the major environmental programs and projects of former secretary Roy Cimatu, who resigned due to health reasons.

"Our focus is improving the bay’s water quality. We are looking at completing the second phase of beach nourishment project while further reducing fecal coliform level to make the bay safe for swimming, boating and other forms of contact recreation," Sampulna said.

He added the department will continue cleaning up priority rivers and other critical bodies of water.

The DENR began the rehabilitation of Manila Bay on January 27, 2019. In January, the agency reported a decrease in coliform levels in several sampling stations and rivers, which it attributed to solid waste management strategies, geo-engineering interventions, and compliance monitoring of establishments.

It also created an artificial white sand beach made from crushed dolomite rocks along the Baywalk area despite opposition from environmental campaigners and fisherfolk. 

For scientists and environmentalists, conserving and restoring coastal ecosystems such as mangrove forests and mudflats can help rehabilitate the degraded bay.  

Sampulna also said the department’s plan of building a cannon replica along Baywalk—which is supposed to serve as a reminder of the DENR’s commitment to rehabilitate Manila Bay—will be studied.

"We’re studying whether we put it up or no longer put up. We will ask whether it’s acceptable to the people," he said.

Solid waste, forest management

Under his tenure as the head of DENR, local government units will be given technical assistance to build sanitary landfills, Sampulna said. DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the agency is focused on finalizing a list of non-environmentally accepted products and packaging in a bid to address the country's plastic pollution problem.

Sampulna also said the department will strengthen reforestation efforts through the Enhanced National Greening Program and protection of the country’s forests.

"We will also ensure the sustainable management of protected areas and preserve the biodiversity of terrestrial and marine ecosystem," he said.

In mid-February, forest rangers of Masungi Georeserve Foundation were mauled by people suspected to be working for resorts inside the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.

Masungi is restoring a 2,700-hectare land within the protected area in partnership with the government.

Leones said the agency is reviewing its memorandum of agreement with the foundation to determine what needs to be strengthened and changed. The MOA was signed in 2017 under the late environment chief Gina Lopez.

According to Sampulna, the DENR is aiming to replicate the rehabilitation of Boracay Island in other ecotourism sites such as Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro, Coron and El Nido in Palawan, Panglao in Bohol, and Siargao in Surigao del Norte.

On responding to the impacts of climate change, the DENR OIC said the department "will continue conducting vulnerability and risk assessment pertaining to geohazards and groundwater resource, and we will doubly work hard to ensure that mineral development is done responsibly and not wantonly."

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. Scientists warned that some of the consequences of the climate crisis are irreversible for centuries to millennia.

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