The cleaning up of Manila Bay starts now
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2019 - 12:00am

The first week of the New Year 2019 has passed and things are happening fast like the text I got from my dear friend, Commodore Robert “Bobby” Joseph who text me last Friday this message “I am glad that Sec. Roy Cimatu has decided once and for all to clean up Manila Bay in One Year! The Manila Bay Yacht Club (MYC) and the Rotary Club of Manila is supporting the project of Sec. Cimatu. Come Jan. 15th local government officials will meet at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to listen to Sec. Cimatu’s plans and strategies. It is expected that more organizations will join this development and building owners are expected to have their sewage treatment plants installed immediately. Thank you Chief of the DENR to be the first serious leader to make this happen.”

I love to hear good news in the first week of January. Actually this already materialized way back in 2013 when the Supreme Court (SC) supported the call to have the Manila Bay waters cleaned up. If you recall, it was on December 18, 2008, when the Supreme Court issued the mandamus directing 13 government agencies – DENR, Metro Manila Development Authority; Departments of Environment and Natural Resources; Education; Health; Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries; Public Works and Highways; Budget and Management; Interior and Local Government; Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police-Maritime Group, Philippine Ports Authority, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, and Local Water Utilities Administration – to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay in their different capacities to clean up the Manila Bay. 

But somehow because the Aquino government’s wasn’t serious about anything, years passed and no one cared about Manila Bay until we wrote to challenge Sir Bobby Joseph as the MYC made him their Commodore. But the cleaning up of Manila Bay can really be done if the top leaders of the national government make it their advocacy.

To be totally honest about it… no one thought that Pres. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte would be serious in his call to clean up the “Cesspool” in the fable isle of Boracay… but the President showed us that he had the political will to do things though impossible by many and he did it. Six months later Boracay has reopened, not a hundred percent, but at least it is no longer the cesspool that it once was.

The DENR is aiming to rehabilitate the heavily-polluted Manila Bay and eventually make it fit for swimming once again. DENR Secretary Cimatu pointed out “The current level now is 330 million MPN. The objective is to bring it to a level, which it can be swimmable. The coliform level must be less than 100 mpn.” MPN refers to most probable number of fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliter. So this is the marching orders of the DENR Secretary starting in the month of January. Sec. Cimatu said the DENR’s initiative to rehabilitate the Manila Bay is in accordance with the writ of continuing mandamus to clean up the body of water issued a decade ago.

Again, I’d like to point out that the SC issued that mandamus to 13 government agencies in the Year 2008 that is 11 years ago that these government agencies defied our SC. Make me wonder why the SC did not sanction these agencies that willfully defied an SC order? Perhaps my good friend, Atty. Antonio Oposa did not file any cases against these agencies, but I would like to believe that their defiance had nothing to do with corruption; rather it is simply common government incompetence that made them defy the SC! Perhaps this time around, newly appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Lucas Bersamin would come up with a new set of rules or penalties for agencies that refuse a Supreme Court order.

Meanwhile, unlike Boracay which has numerous resorts that were in trouble… in Manila Bay there are no resorts except for a few that could be in trouble. But this Jan. 15th meeting with the Local Government officials and the DENR someone should tell them that there are a lot of great tourism projects that could be created if the waters of Manila Bay would be cleaned. One of them is the coming of cruise ships into Manila because there are enough business destinations for tourists to come and visit.

Sure people may soon be able to swim in Manila Bay, but it should be on a well-guarded place or destination. Then there are tourist boats that can bring tourists to place like Cavite and the site of the famous Battle of Manila Bay…a tourism project that was never made because the Manila Bay just smell like a huge toilet. We should not forget that Manila Bay is a historical destination but realize that it can never be a tourism destination for as long as the national government doesn’t spearhead this clean up drive… best of all, we have a Pres. Duterte who has the political will to do this!

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