The Manila Bay beach along Roxas Boulevard. (Photo courtesy of DENR)
MANILA – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu stood firm on his position to push through with the Manila Bay beach nourishment project as he took a swipe at critics of the initiative.
“Sadly, there are those who want us to stop the beach nourishment for reasons that are better political rather than environmental. We are not bothered, we have nothing to fear as long as we know that we are doing something good, these are critical in the rehabilitation. The dolomite sand we used is not harmful,” Cimatu said Saturday during the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day at the Manila Bay.
He said the agency is only complying with the writ of mandamus issued by the Supreme Court and with the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte who even launched the Battle for Manila Bay to clean up the area and restore its water quality to a level fit for swimming.
He said more than just dreaming for clean water, the DENR is working hard to make that a reality even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are cleaning up not just the coast but also the trash, the garbage so that it will not end at the shoreline,” he said.
He said the priority in the Manila Bay rehabilitation is the coastal cleanup and water quality improvement currently being done.
Another issue to be addressed is the resettlement of informal settlers around the esteros and in the Pasig River who contributes solid wastes in the waters of the bay.
The most difficult part, he said, is educating or changing the mindset that must be learned by the public, especially those who continue to throw their trash everywhere.
“Napakahalaga na mabago ang kultura at pag uugali ng mga ibang tao upang tuluyang masagip ang Manila Bay (it is very important to change the culture and behavior of some people to successfully save Manila Bay),” said Cimatu.
Among the accomplishments done by the DENR so far includes the installation of the first solar-powered sewage treatment plant in the baywalk which can clean 500,000 liters of dirty water daily.
The coliform level in different areas around Manila Bay is now down to hundreds of thousand as compared to millions when they started the rehabilitation.
“Sa baywalk dati 90 million coliforms ngayon 920,000 na lang pero hindi pa pwede mag swim jan (in baywalk before the coliform level is at 90 million, now it is down to 920,000 so this means it is not yet fit for swimming),” he said.
The DENR is set to build other treatment plants for the Paranaque, Tullahan-Tinejeros, and the Las Pinas-Zapote Rivers as all of these go into the bay.
He added that more are still underway as the two private concessionaires committed to putting up sewage treatment plants of their own while other sub-plants in Metro Manila are also being built.
Once finished, these would have a wastewater treatment capacity of 970,000 cubic meters per day, Cimatu said.
Several establishments around Manila Bay were also issued show cause and closure order for violation of the clean water act as the agency will strictly implement the three-meter easement law.
Cimatu cited that the rapid restoration that was done in Boracay and the rehabilitation being undertaken at the Manila Bay is not treated to be plain accomplishments but would rather be a template for other coastal and small island areas.
“The lessons we learned in Boracay are being applied in other eco-tourism sites like El Nido in Palawan, Panglao Island in Bohol and Puerto Galera in Mindoro,” he said.
Cimatu also called on for the responsible use of plastic bags and other single-use plastics which almost always, ends up in our oceans.
After the ICC ceremony, Cimatu invited attendees to try to walk along the bay’s “white sand” to get a feel of the “new beach”. (PNA)