Duterte ought to do a Boracay in Manila Bay
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2018 - 12:00am

The famous Isle of Boracay was closed on April 26, 2018 and it gave Pres. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte great proof that he had the political will to effect change in this country when it is needed! Boracay is set to reopen on Oct. 26 and we hope that what needed to be fixed in Boracay would be fixed by now. Now the government is using Boracay as the main standard for resort hotels that open by the beach and all this was set by no less than Pres. Digong Duterte.

With problems plaguing us for decades without any solution in sight, I sincerely hope that Pres. Duterte would lean his ears and help solve the problem of trash and garbage being thrown in Manila Bay where the only tourism sight to behold is merely the sunset that we see over the water. With the Duterte administration coming up with a Department of Human Settlements I propose that Pres. Duterte write a law prohibiting people from living beside esteros, riverbanks or creeks and that the Department of Human Settlements first resettle the people who lived there so finally we can clean up our rivers, creeks and esteros and eventually Manila Bay. If Pres. Duterte takes this as a challenge, then it can be the rallying cry for the 2019 elections.

Still on the Manila Bay issue, my good friend, Rick Ramos wrote me again to say: “Bobit, Thank you for your column last October 9, 2018 on saving our Manila Bay. The pollution of Manila Bay began as early as 40 years ago in the 1970s. I recall taking photos of debris floating beside the American Embassy compound along Roxas Blvd after a typhoon. It just shows that the garbage of Metro Manila – far worse now – ends up in what used to be a beautiful Manila Bay with a world famous sunset.

In the Year 2000, my family and I took a ship going back to Manila. It was then when I realized that Manila Bay has been long dead with the dark brown fecal color of the water. Upon docking at the Manila North Harbour, we saw the myriad of squatter dwellings that contribute to the pollution of the bay. Then in late 2016, we saw trash floating at the pier in Corregidor Island. Amazing that the government authority in charge of the tourist destination cannot even address the visible, miserable eyesore.

Manila Bay, with an area of almost 200,000 hectares, has sadly become the country’s biggest cesspool with sewage and trash coming not only from Metro Manila, but also from the four provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan with a total population of almost 20 million people. It is only the rain and the Pampanga River that pours in an estimated 50% of its freshwater. In a study conducted on its cleanup, some four million gallons or 16 million liters of raw untreated sewage were disposed to the bay together One Million units of fecal matter per cubic meter of water. It certainly does not sound too inviting. Yet if we only take care of Manila Bay, it can feed Metro Manila with enough fish. The total area of the bay is three times the size of the metropolis (an area of 62,000 hectares).

For the past four decades, our national government has been remised – an understatement – with its duty to protect a great body of water with a coastline of almost 200 kms. Out of the 54,000 hectares of mangroves a century ago, there are only some 800 hectares left in the Parañaque-Las Piñas area. This perhaps explain why Senator Cynthia Aguilar Villar is so passionately against the reclamation project for a new runway to compliment a new international airport at Sangley, Cavite.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ordered the immediate cleanup of Manila Bay in recognition of PD 1152 issued by then President Marcos in 1977 that states that it is the responsibility of government to clean up when bodies of waters are polluted.  A year after in 2009, the High Tribunal also issued a landmark decision and ordered 13 government agencies led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to “clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay, restore and maintain its waters, make them fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.” But nothing has happened especially under President Aquino.

I shall pursue the cleanup off the Manila Bay together with Laguna de Bay whose total pollution could be a thousand times worse than Boracay, which has the advantage of being an island. It is not an easy task, but nobody seems to be doing it. I have consulted a friend, a former Supreme Court Justice, for legal advice on how to proceed. I will ask a few former senator friends to help me in the advocacy. Perhaps one day people can swim again in the Manila Bay as it was in the 50s and 60s. – and enjoy the beautiful sunset. That can be Our Legacy!” Ricardo B. Ramon Managing Director Pilipinas Sandiwa Heritage Foundation.” In a talk with Commodore Bobby Joseph in Cebu the other day, he told me that the Manila Yacht Club (MYC) will have its formal opening and introducing of its new members of the board on Nov. 17.

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Email: vsbobita@gmail.com

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