Friday, May 24, 2019

Lacson: Manila Bay Rehabilitation: How I see it as an ordinary citizen


I AM looking at the Manila Bay rehabilitation through the perspective of an ordinary Filipino, and how do I feel about this? I am impressed and happy that after so many decades, this initiative has come to life. More importantly, it is successful.

Before we add colors and insinuate as to whether this clean-up campaign would lead to the alleged development of reclaimed areas for industrial companies as what some lawmakers are claiming, why don’t we just simply look at this using the lens of an environmentalist.

Manila Bay spans a coastline of 190 kilometers and a surface area of 1,870 km2. It covers three regions namely, NCR, Central Luzon and Calabarzon or a total of 178 cities and municipalities. It includes 7 lakes, the Laguna Lake, Pasig River, and Pantabangan Dam, and its entire watershed is drained by 17 major river systems.

Based on a primer regarding the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program, the Supreme Court released Mandamus Order GR Nos. 171947-48 on December 18, 2008, ordering various government agencies to restore the bay to “Class B level” where it would be fit for “swimming, skin-diving and other forms of contact recreation.” The decision came after the Concerned Residents of Manila Bay filed a case against government agencies in 1999 for the alleged “continuous negligence in keeping the Manila Bay clean, well-maintained and pollution-free.”

In the said SC ruling, the government agencies were given 10 years to rehabilitate Manila Bay, but after seeing no progress, a new SC order was released in February 2011 mandating concerned parties to complete the said restoration by June 2011. This order yielded no positive results as well after several attempts to implement revised operational plans to restore Manila Bay. It was only in December 2018 when Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu revealed the so-called “Battle for Manila Bay” heeding to President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders to bring back the Manila Bay to its pristine condition.

Last January 27, 2019, a clean-up drive participated by different government workers and volunteers was held as the initial phase of the Manila Bay rehabilitation. The agencies which took part in the said activity include the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Departments of Education, Health, Agriculture, Public Works and Highways and Budget and Management, Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Philippine Ports Authority and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

As a result of this first clean-up activity, we can see a clutter-free, better-looking Manila Bay. Can’t we all be pleased with this development? Can’t we ordinary people marvel in awe and laud our government for having the will to finally start this dreaded and long overdue campaign to save Manila Bay? Can’t we all Filipinos be proud to finally show the world that Manila Bay is now beginning to look and (smell) better? Do more of our lawmakers prefer to see the water pollution, floating solid wastes, watershed degradation, and decreasing biodiversity in Manila Bay?

I may be naive to what’s next after rehabilitating Manila Bay. After all the allegations of some lawmakers urging the government to suspend the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program may be true. Who knows, they may not be true at all either. So in the meantime, can’t we just all feel grateful for this huge environmental development and give the concerned government officials and agencies the due credit they deserve.


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