Manila bay with the global overview of seawater
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2019 - 12:00am

Both my PhilSTAR colleagues, Sara Soliven de Guzman and Marichu Villanueva, provided in their columns a very clear picture of our gross negligence in preventing the Manila Bay crisis in spite of the 2008 and 2011 orders of the Supreme Court to rehabilitate it within 10 years. Sara noted: “Manila Bay area covers 8 provinces and 178 local governments in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, and CALABARZON. You can just imagine the amount of filth that flows from 17 principal rivers draining into it. Added to this is the non-existent sewerage system.”

Marichu meantime cites the protagonists in the Administrative Order OA 16 Task Force created by President Duterte: Manila City administrator Atty. Erickson Alcovendaz, Jennifer Rufo of Maynilad Water Services, and Jeric Sevilla of the Manila Water Company.

Sewer treatment and relocation of informal settlers

Marichu wrote that the directives of the Task Force to enforce the country’s sanitation code “to ensure the complete rehabilitation, restoration, and conservation of the Manila Bay” requires all structures and facilities around Manila Bay, including households, “to immediately connect existing sewage lines to available sewerage treatment plants (STPs)…”

Marichu added that DENR Secretary Cimatu says only 15 percent of the water-served population in the NCR is connected to a sewer system with either the Maynilad Water or the Manila Water. But both cannot accept responsibility for the wastewater of the commercial establishments by Manila Bay (Max’s Restaurant, Heng Feng Kitchenette, Jollibee in Macapagal, Lamer Catering, and Nihon Bashitei Japanese Food) because the concessionaires’ mandate is for domestic waste only – but their emissions contain chemical effluents. Under their respective contracts with the Manila Waterways and Sewerage System (MWSS), the two concessionaires agreed to operate, maintain, and invest in the water and sewage system. Rufo cited Maynilad’s latest investment – the construction of a P1.2 billion STP in Paranaque City that was inaugurated last month. In their other serviced areas where there are no available lands, she disclosed, Maynilad set up modular-sized STP like those in certain places in Quezon City. Moreover 200,000 informal settler families (ISF) residing along esteros and riverbanks discharge human waste at the waterways, which eventually ends up at the Manila Bay. The Task Force is mandated to craft a comprehensive plan for “massive relocation” of the ISF.

If the ocean gets ill, we will too

In the 2003 World Water Development Report, 23 United Nations agencies combined their efforts and expertise to offer a global overview of the state of the world’s freshwater resources. Although water is the most widely occurring substance on earth, only 2.53 percent is freshwater while the remainder is saltwater. Thus, we need to protect not only our freshwater but also our source of saltwater. I quote Claire Merleau-Ponty and Sylvie Girardet on “The Seawater” chapter from their book My Beloved Planet,

“The five oceans: the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic, and the Antarctic, as well as the many smaller seas are salted. They are shaken by slow ocean movements. They brim over with algae, seaweeds and invisible animals – the phytoplankton. Microscopic beings are eaten up by thousands of plants and sea animals: fish, shellfish, crustacean, mollusk and mammals (whales, seals, etc.) that feed us. Seas and oceans are full of mineral salts and vitamins that keep man healthy.

 “Seas and oceans that are so valuable for life on earth are constantly mistreated by men due to pollution and the destruction of the coasts and the butchery of sea animals. We do not realize that if the ocean gets ill, we will too. When we use the seas and oceans as rubbish bins we either kill these animals or make them ill. Since we also take the creatures from the sea to feed ourselves, we may get ill as well. By fishing uncontrollably, many species of crustaceans, fish, and mammals are in danger of disappearing or extinction.  The coastline is in danger too. Many people in the world live on the coastline where tourist resorts thrive. However, they destroy the coast, kill the animals living there, get the seawater dirty, and destroy the landscape.”

Humanity’s rubbish bin

Since the seas and the rivers are humanity’s rubbish bins, no matter how large they are they will get dirty in the long run. Wastewater, waste chemicals, and factory waste products poison plants and animals living there. We may get ill because we eat them. When the water is too dirty, green weeds multiply and prevent other creatures from developing. This is known as the green tide.

In Minamata, Japan, over 1,000 fishermen fell seriously ill because they fed themselves with fish poisoned by the waste chemicals belched out into the sea from a factory nearby. Meantime in Hong Kong, it is frequently forbidden to bathe in the sea because of the danger of abundant microscopic weeds produced by pollution. These seaweeds and algae are called red tide. (Most of the coastline of Luzon has been plagued by the red tide.) The most serious dangers however are oil slicks. Other transformations are the result of men’s construction work, as well as the destruction of salt, marshes, and dunes.

Massacre at sea

Ecologists are anxious. Wrongful fishing practices are killing such an amount of fish that they have no time to reproduce. Some fishing ships are real factories. Once the fish are on board, they are cleaned, chopped, canned or frozen. Trawlers, trying to guarantee a good catch (sometimes 1,000 tons per day), use huge trawl nets that are several miles long. They yank off marine plants and catch all sorts of fish, whether big or small, and not always edible. Sometimes fishermen even explode dynamite at the bottom of the sea to get an easy catch. Hundreds of pounds of fish are killed only to catch a couple of pounds’ weight of prawns. Dolphins and sea lions are even massacred this way!

In the name of the law

It is everybody’s duty to stop the pollution of seas and oceans! Many countries try to agree and pass laws concerning pollution. Presently, it is forbidden to dump industrial waste in almost all the seas in the world. On the other hand, oceans are less protected. Although factories do not have the right to dump carcinogenic products (cancer causing products), large amounts of plastic, iron, concrete, etc. are being thrown into the oceans and seas.

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