Environment 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 government’s 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 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 was 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 was 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 was the coastal cleanup and water quality improvement being done.
Those who participated in the ICC Day included personnel of government agencies and members of private organizations who collected trash.
As early as 6 a.m., personnel from the Bureau of Fire Department, Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Health joined other government employees for the cleanup activity on Roxas Boulevard.
Another issue to be addressed is the resettlement of informal settlers around the esteros and in the Pasig River who contribute 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.
“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.
“In baywalk before the coliform level was 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-Tinajeros, and the Las Piñas-Zapote Rivers as all of these go into the bay.
He added that more would be underway as the two private concessionaires committed to putting up sewage treatment plants of their own while other sub-plants in Metro Manila were 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 orders for violation of the clean water act as the agency will strictly implement the three-meter easement law.
Cimatu cited the rapid restoration done in Boracay and the rehabilitation being undertaken at the Manila Bay would not be treated as 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 ecotourism sites like El Nido in Palawan, Panglao Island in Bohol and Puerto Galera in Mindoro,” he said.
Cimatu also called on residents for the responsible use of plastic bags and other single-use plastics which almost always ended up in the ocean.
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.”
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