Cleaning up Manila Bay | Inquirer Business

Cleaning up Manila Bay

/ 05:05 AM February 16, 2019

Manila Bay was considered one of the world’s greatest harbors as it allowed trading between the natives of Manila and merchants from other countries. It was a haven for boat enthusiasts, couples, and those who seek some rest and recreation. It was also the backdrop for historic Battles of La Naval de Manila and Manila Bay.

The modernization of the areas surrounding Manila Bay, however, took its toll on its calm and clean waters. Esquire Magazine earlier reported that in 2018, some 80 tons of garbage washed ashore following days of rain. Massive amounts of wastewater infiltrated the bay, with fecal coliform level at 330 million for every 100 milliliters.

The acceptable level is 100 million for 100 ml for recreational water, which is for bathing, swimming, and fishing.


In a statement, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that an interagency task force would be created to bring down said coliform level to make the bay suitable for swimming by December 2019 under its P47-billion Manila Bay Action Plan.


Said force would consist of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Group, Philippine Ports Authority, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Manila Waters Sewerage System, and the Local Water Utilities Administration.

In the meantime, government employees, volunteers, and stakeholders participated in cleaning the bay and its connecting rivers and waterways. President Duterte meanwhile directed owners of nearby hotels to install water treatment systems for proper waste disposal or face closure.

“If there are no tourists, then so be it. We will not die,” said Duterte in a speech during this year’s Barangay Summit on Peace. “You do something about your waste there or otherwise I will close it. That’s for sure.”

Efforts to rehabilitate the bay came a decade after the Supreme Court directed petitioners—government agencies Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), MMDA, PCG, PNP Maritime Group, then-Department of Education, Culture, and Sports, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Budget and Management, and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)—to clean up, rehabilitate and restore the bay, and to maintain it fit for swimming, skin diving and other forms of contact recreation, in the case of MMDA, et al. v. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay.

In this case, the Supreme Court declared that the petitioners’ respective charters and enabling statutes and pertinent laws enjoin them to perform certain functions relating directly or indirectly to the clean-up, rehabilitation, protection and preservation of the bay. They are prohibited from choosing not to exercise these functions.

Moreover, Section 17 of the Environment Code, as amended, states that where the quality of water has deteriorated to a degree where its state will adversely affect its best usage, the government agencies concerned shall take such measures as may be necessary to upgrade the quality of such water to meet the prescribed water quality standards.


In this regard, Section 20 of the Environment Code, as amended, directs DENR, in coordination with other government agencies, to facilitate containment, removal and clean-up operations, at the expense of the persons polluting the bay.

Meanwhile, Article 51 of the Water Code prohibits the building of structures within a zone of three meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas, and 40 meters in forest areas.

Accordingly, the DILG and the concerned local government units (LGU) must likewise ensure that the non-complying industrial establishments set up the necessary wastewater treatment facilities and infrastructure to prevent their industrial discharge, within a reasonable period. Non-complying establishments will either be shut down or directed to transfer their operations.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court observed that nearby establishments and informal settlers rampantly and repeatedly violated the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act by littering, dumping waste matters in roads, canals, esteros and other public places, operating open dumps, and openly burning solid waste, among others.

Likewise, the pollution of the bay and dumping of petroleum, radioactive, and otherwise noxious substances, and disposal of infectious wastes from vessels violate pertinent provisions of Republic Act Nos. 9275 and 8550.

“The cleanup and/or restoration of Manila Bay is only an aspect and the initial stage of the long-term solution. The preservation of the water quality of the bay after the rehabilitation process is as important as the cleaning phase,” declared the Supreme Court in the MMDA case. “It is imperative that the wastes and contaminants found in the rivers, inland bays, and other bodies of water be stopped from reaching the Manila Bay.”

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Thus, the Supreme Court issued against petitioners a “continuing mandamus,” in which under extraordinary circumstances, it may issue directives with the end in view of ensuring that its decision would not be set to naught by administrative inaction or indifference.

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