The clean-up of Manila Bay: A year after
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2020 - 12:00am

Wow! How time flies indeed, I didn’t realize that a year has already passed when I challenged then newly installed Commodore of the Manila Yacht Club… Sir Bobby Joseph to create a lasting impact on his appointment as Commodore of this very prestigious club and he told me that he would support the proposal to clean up Manila Bay. Toward the end of January 2019, the so-called Battle of Manila Bay began with almost all the Cabinet members of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in full attendance for the formal launching by DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu. I was in Manila Hotel at the start of that program and walked all the way to the Manila Yacht Club, the longest time I walked since my kidney operation.

When this great clean up project kicked off on Jan. 26, 2019, the DENR recorded extremely high fecal coliform levels from major Manila Bay outfalls. However, today Sec. Cimatu revealed that the most recent data from the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) showed that the coliform levels have “drastically decreased.” Citing EMB data, Cimatu said the fecal coliform count at the Padre Faura outfall is now down to 920,000 most probable numbers per 100 milliliter (mpn/100ml) from its pre-rehab record of 7.21 million mpn/100ml.

To show his interest in this project, which began with 10,000 volunteers in January last year, President Duterte allocated P42.95 billion for the implementation of the Manila Bay rehabilitation project within three years and at least 13 government agencies are working together to carry out the mission. The government targets the source of water pollution in an effort to rehabilitate, restore and maintain the historic bay to a level fit for swimming, as mandated in the mandamus issued by the Supreme Court in 2008. This week, Sec. Cimatu with Bobby Joseph witnessed the operation of the DENR’s Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) located near the Manila Yacht Club. This just goes to show that if government officials get serious in pursuing their goals… they can move things. 

Mind you, the DENR reported significant improvements in the water quality of major outfalls directly draining into Manila Bay a year after the pollution-challenged water body started undergoing rehabilitation.

“There is reason to celebrate because a year after we launched the ‘Battle for Manila Bay,’ we have recorded significant improvements in the water quality from major drainage outfalls,” according to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu.

Then of course there are the critics of this project who has dubbed it a dismal failure calling it a media blitz with hardly any results in the past 12 months. First of all… allow me to remind those critics that when this project was launched last January 2019, not a single Cabinet member ever said that Manila Bay would be clean in one year’s time! They cited that Task Force chairman Roy Cimatu has no battle plan and no war or battle has been won without a plan. Really now? Don’t this bright boys know that if the DENR were ordered to make a battle plan, I’m more than certain that they would still be in the middle of making this plan and there would be no small effort to clean Manila Bay! Yes it is so much easier to be a critic these days!

Indeed we are facing the reality that Manila Bay is just too enormous with its 200,000 hectares of water surrounded by 200 km of land. Remember how the government cleaned up Boracay Island, many establishments were closed so that the clean up process would proceed without fail. Now that this has been done, no one is saying that Boracay has been totally clean because this is a life long process.

When I was in Manila last January for the launching of this project, I interviewed Atty. Tony Oposa the environmental lawyer (He is a Cebuano like me) and we talked about timetables and he was honest enough to tell me that if we do not begin with small areas like the Baseco Beach… we would never get anywhere. But take a look at the Baseco Beach today, though it is small if you consider the entire Manila Bay area, but you have to appreciate the folks who did that job in cleaning up that area.

To celebrate the Battle for Manila Bay’s first year on Jan. 26, the DENR has lined up several activities including the inauguration of the sewage interceptor and treatment plant located in front of the Manila Yacht Club. The facility, which is capable of treating 500,000 liters of wastewater per day, will ensure that no untreated wastewater from the drainage outfalls flows into the bay.

Another event was held at the Baseco Beach followed by the signing of the Pledge of Support from the private sector to the DENR’s War on Waste to be led by members of the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS). At this point, perhaps there is a need to change its original name from the Battle of Manila Bay to a simple Clean-up of Manila Bay so that the critics who hasn’t help this activity would stop criticizing it.

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