"What has the DENR achieved so far?"
The good news, in so far as the environment is concerned, is the determined effort of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to prioritize the rehabilitation of Manila Bay from now until 2022.
No less than Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said recently that the rehabilitation of Manila Bay will remain the DENR’s top priority in the next two-and-a-half years. This, I think, is a step in the right direction.
Cimatu chairs the Manila Bay Task Force. He is assisted in this huge undertaking by DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Concerns Benny D. Antiporda, who is on top of the day-to-day operations of the task force.
Cimatu wants to make Manila Bay’s waters fit for swimming by the time President Duterte steps down in 2022. This is one of the concrete targets that the DENR hopes to achieve in its bid to win the “Battle for Manila Bay.”
The rehabilitation of Manila Bay follows close on the heels of the successful rehab campaign in Boracay that took six months to complete, and plans to undertake similar rehabilitation programs in other tourism areas in the country, including Baguio, the country's summer capital.
Cimatu is finding out that rehabilitating a heavily polluted body of water is a very difficult task. But he really wants to make a difference and restore water in the historic bay to its once-pristine condition.
Ever since the Manila Bay rehabilitation kicked off with the launch of the “Battle for Manila Bay” in Jan. 26 last year, Cimatu recognizes that “much more needs to be done” to meet the end-goal of making it fit again for swimming and other purposes.
What has the DENR achieved so far?
Cimatu has reported to Malacañang that “our effort to restore Manila Bay is now in full swing and we hope to sustain the momentum of restoring it to its former glory in the coming years.”
The ongoing rehabilitation program is now on its first phase or the cleanup and water quality monitoring phase.
The MBTF has identified 44,125 informal settler families living within the Manila Bay area. A total of 51 families, particularly those situated along Estero de San Antonio de Abad, have already been relocated to Caloocan City.
Apart from these, the task force has delineated 547 kilometers of easements in the National Capital Region and in Central Luzon.
As of Sept. 26 last year, the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau and the Laguna Lake Development Authority had inspected 9,708 commercial establishments around Manila Bay. Of this number, 2,478 were issued notices of violations and 107 were slapped with cease-and-desist orders.
Since the rehabilitation started in January 2019, close to 70,000 volunteers from the NCR, Central Luzon and Calabarzon have collected over 2.3 million kilograms of waste through cleanups, trash boats and garbage traps. That's an awful amount of garbage.
The task force has already monitored a total of 70 stations in the Manila Bay area. This includes 31 bathing beaches, 18 river mouths, 16 drainage outfalls, and five rivers.
To improve the ecosystem, the DENR led the planting of native and fruit-bearing tree seedlings as well as mangroves.
It is true that rehabilitation of Manila Bay requires the participation and support of the people themselves. Thus, the department is also implementing and information and education campaign (IEC) on the importance of rehabilitating this body of water. So far, the task force has already conducted over 120 seminars, training, and activities with a total of 8,100 participants.
The DENR has also published 3,574 printed materials on the ongoing rehabilitation, as well as nine information campaigns and 43 updates posted on various social media platforms.
Cimatu said the interventions related to IEC will further increase as the rehabilitation progresses. “We hope that communities will imbibe the knowledge that was handed to them in ensuring the cleanliness in areas they live in,” he said.
The DENR also reactivated its coordination with 12 other government agencies covered by the 2008 Supreme Court continuing mandamus for the cleanup, rehabilitation, and preservation of Manila Bay.
The next two phases will involve the massive relocation of informal settlers plus more rehabilitation works and the all-important education, protection and sustainability component of the campaign.
I recall that in the early 60s, city residents didn't need to go very far to beat the summer heat. They simply had to take a jeepney to Roxas Boulevard to go swimming. OK, so Boomers had a grand time enjoying Nature that was within reach decades ago, but millennials can probably catch up if the DENR succeeds in its gargantuan task soon enough.