Envronment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Monday urged government offices, including the local governments, around Manila Bay to set a good example to private establishments—residential and commercial ones—on the compliance with the Clean Water Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“Manila Bay is in critical condition and proper wastewater discharge and solid waste disposal play a key role to reviving it,” he said.
He told stakeholders that rehabilitation works at the Manila Bay would start on Jan. 27.
Government offices, particularly those in the Manila Bay area, must ensure that they are connected to sewer lines or have their own sewage treatment plants for proper wastewater disposal, he said.
He also reminded them to manage their solid waste to minimize garbage that end up in landfills or oceans.
According to Cimatu, solid waste was still a huge problem due to non-segregation, rampant use of single-use plastic products and improper waste disposal.
He warned establishments that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources would clamp down on all establishments discharging untreated wastewater either directly into the Manila Bay or into esteros and rivers leading to the bay.
“We will issue notices of violation to non-compliant establishments or we will shut them down. Until they comply, they cannot operate,” he said.
“With education, we can clean up Manila Bay, we can sustain it, and we can preserve the revived Manila Bay,” he added.
But a party-list legislator said the DENR should reveal the details of the multi-billion peso rehabilitation plan.
Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis also urged the House of Representatives’ Committees on Natural Resources and Ecology to look into what he called “the much-hyped government-led undertaking.”
“While we are not opposing the rehabilitation plan, it must be done in a manner that its so-called benefits will not adversely affect the small stakeholders. According to fishermen’s group Pamalakaya, an estimated 300,000 residents made up mostly of small fishers, will be affected by the inter-city clean up and rehabilitation,” he added.
The House’s Makabayan Bloc is planning to file a resolution urging the house leadership to compel the DENR to publicly disclose the Manila Bay rehabilitation master plan for Congress to look into its effect on affected communities, Casilao said.
Pamalakaya and environmental groups are wary that the Manila Bay rehabilitation is only a cover for the heightened exploitation of Manila Bay through large-scale reclamation for commercial ventures, Casilao said.
The groups claimed that an estimated 32,429.56 hectares of Manila Bay waters were up for reclamation and the land will be used for commercial and tourism purposes, including hotels, high-end residences and casinos, among others. Pamalakaya said that there are around 43 reclamation projects approved and pending for approval covering the entire Manila Bay area, Casilao said.
“We want to know the plan of the DENR, or the task force it will create, for the almost quarter of a million poor residents living along Manila Bay and their livelihood if the rehab kicks off. Are they included in the master plan in the first place or just like other urban poor communities that will be just demolished and sent to ‘god-knows-where’ relocation sites with no job alternatives and social services. We also want to confirm the numerous reclamation project undertakings,” Casilao stressed.