Manila Bay Rehab: Another Battle for the Philippines
by Shara Mae Balce, March 08, 2019 2:50pm
Art by Allen Mirambel
As part of the government’s efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay, the polluted harbor gradually transformed back to its almost pristine state—from a sea of waste to a cleaner, photogenic bay.
Some people are amazed, so far, by the accomplishments of the current administration; others shrug off their shoulders, and backlash against the initiative arise, saying it will be a hard-luck effort to bring back the bay’s pristine state.
Manila Bay plays an integral part in our historical, cultural, and socio-economic status. During the Spanish Colonial Period, Manila Bay served as the country’s premier gateway for trading with neighboring countries in Asia, especially China—bringing in porcelain, ivory, silk, and other kinds of foreign goods to the country. It served as the battleground of the infamous and historical Spanish-American War. Almost a century later, the country is facing another battle cry for the Manila coast. This time it is not a war, but a rehabilitation project to bring back the pristine waters of the once glorious bay.
The harbor’s abundance in natural resources has been the source of livelihood of people living in the coastal areas. It has been the bench of economic development of the Philippines, producing more than half of the country’s gross domestic product that resulted in an upgrade to the transportation facilities in airports, roads, and railways. With the rise of many residential and commercial units, the Manila Bay area has been included among the fastest-growing districts in the metro.
Early this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) went on full swing to bring back the bay’s unspoiled condition, after the thriving efforts of restoring Boracay. On January 27, thousands of people gathered in a solidarity walk for the cleanup’s kick-off. The effort is dubbed as “Battle for Manila Bay.” The government aims to replicate the Boracay clean up in October 2017. Among its objectives is to restore the bay’s standard and safe water quality, meaning, it should be fit for swimming, skin diving, and other forms of contact recreation.
The DENR also warned of the potential closure of some establishments near the area for failing to comply with the environmental regulations. Unlike the world-famous Boracay, the Manila Bay’s rehabilitation has no completion date, but DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu hopes to finish it by the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term in June 2022.
Under the Administrative Order 16 signed by the President on February 19, the task force will take responsibility of the relevant provisions of the sanitary code and undertake remedial measures to improve the water quality of the bay. The task force is also mandated to ensure that vast coordination works in compliance with the high court’s order.
Days after the official launch of the cleanup project, photos of a cleaner Manila Bay made waves on social media—the immediate effects of the effort (seemingly garbage-free bay) brought excitement to people to swim into the still murky waters of the bay. The Department of Health then warned the public of the diseases they can acquire from swimming in the polluted waters.
The Department of Health has continuously reminded the public of the health risks—fungal and other skin infections, and waterborne gastrointestinal diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, and cholera from the bay waters. High levels of Fecal coliform, a bacteria found in human and animal feces, are found in Manila Bay and its water’s bacteria level is still deemed beyond swimming standards. The DENR fenced off the seawall of the bay to dissuade people from swimming.
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Reports said major pollution comes from the informal settlers and commercial establishments throwing their wastes in the bay. With the increasing economic activity—commercial, aquaculture, tourism, etc.—the bay has deteriorated over the years. But let’s face it, more than the issue on the land-based activities, the main problem here is the collective offense for us, our little regard on proper waste disposal.
A cleaner bay would welcome a lot of trading and tourism opportunities to the Philippines, attracting more foreign nationals to visit the great sunset view of the bay. What needed are joint efforts from ordinary people and authorities for us to bring back the once glorious bay—even if it takes a decade more to achieve.
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Let’s face it, more than the issue on the land-based activities, the main problem here is the collective offense for us, our little regard on proper waste disposal.
The effort conveys hopes the joint action will bring back the beauty of Manila Bay soon. Until then, the success of rehabilitation will boost significant advancement for the ecosystem, biodiversity, and the rest of living things along its coasts.