DENR to rehabilitate Manila Bay using same strategy as Boracay

Buoyed by the success of the Boracay rehabilitation, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is preparing to embark on a highly ambitious and more complicated endeavor: restoring Manila Bay to its pristine state.

Although Manila Bay is known for having one of the most beautiful sunsets, its waters are considered the most polluted in the country due to domestic sewage, toxic industrial effluents from factories and shipping operations, and leachate from garbage dumps, among others.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said he was keen to have Manila Bay rehabilitated, restored and maintained to a level fit for swimming, skin diving and other contact forms of recreation.

“We are preparing for an all-out strategy to bring the coliform concentration in Manila Bay to a safe level so that millions of people who reside in the bay region and neighboring areas will enjoy its waters and marine resources without fear of getting sick,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu said the DENR hopes to replicate what has been achieved in Boracay which, prior to undergoing six-month rehabilitation, was described as a “cesspool” by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

The environment chief said the government will show the same level of political will in cleaning up the bay that spans three major regions—National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon and CALABARZON or Region 4A—as it did in Boracay, a tiny island in Western Visayas.

A 2017 report by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau showed that the fecal coliform level in Manila Bay reached as high as over 330 million most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters. The safe level is only 100 MPN/100ml.

According to Cimatu, part of the DENR’s strategy is to ensure the compliance with environmental laws among all local government units (LGUs) surrounding Manila Bay.

“I am calling on all LGUs to step up their efforts in cleaning up the bay because it is their own constituents who will benefit (from a rehabilitated Manila Bay),” Cimatu said.

He revealed that a Manila Bay Command Center under the DENR NCR regional office would be created to oversee the zonal operations of four field offices to be set up in six coastal cities of Metro Manila, namely: Malabon-Navotas, Manila, Pasay-Parañaque, and Las Piñas.

These field offices would be manned by personnel, who would closely coordinate with city or municipal environment officers to ensure that cleanup activities and programs are being carried out and sustained.

To address problems on human waste arising from the presence of informal settlers along the bay, the DENR is looking at technologies that would treat water of pollutants, whether directly discharged into the bay or through toilets.

Cimatu said the DENR would also seek assistance from law enforcement agencies in going after violators of environmental laws, especially those who discharge untreated wastewater into the bay.

In 2008, the Supreme Court issued a continuing writ of mandamus ordering 13 government agencies to clean up Manila Bay and restore its water quality to Class SB, or safe for recreational activities such as swimming.

Class SB waters are also suitable for commercial propagation of shellfish and as spawning areas for milkfish and other similar species. ### 

PH ends Coral Triangle chairmanship with call to scale up action towards poverty reduction, improved food security

The Philippines is ending its two-year chairmanship of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) with a call for nations within one of the world’s biggest and most important marine regions to scale up efforts to achieve widespread impact.

“Moving forward, we must shift our focus on actions that can really deliver higher level of outcomes such as poverty reduction and improved food security,” Undersecretary Jonas Leones of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said in his opening remarks during the 14th CTI-CFF Senior Officials Meeting in Makati City.

The two-day meeting is one of the culminating activities for the Philippine chairmanship of CTI-CFF, a multilateral partnership of six countries working together to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources by addressing crucial issues, such as food security, climate change and marine biodiversity.

The six countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and the Philippines, collectively known as Coral Triangle 6 or CT6.

Leones, chair of the CTI-CFF Committee of Senior Officials, said the chairmanship of the Philippines for the past two years was not easy because it has been challenged with a number of difficulties that caused a small hiccup in the organization.

The region, he said, also suffered from natural disasters that have cost lives and economic losses among CT6 nations, further aggravating what has already been a difficult sector to manage.

“Our coastal communities which have always relied on the richness of our seas remain highly vulnerable to an ever changing environment, which is why there is a need to develop programs and initiatives that are more adaptive and sustainable,” Leones said.

Leones, however, believed the region has already moved on from “difficult times” and was now “eager to keep on working to achieve our common goals.”

But before the CT6 adopts a new regional plan of action, Leones said working groups, such as coordination mechanism, monitoring and evaluation, must gain grounds.

He said this is to make sure “everything is in place and all we have to do is to implement what will be decided upon by the CTI-CFF.”

Leones also shared some of the efforts done by the Philippines to protect its coastal and marine resources, including its “bold and decisive moves” in connection with the world-famous Boracay Island.

He said the six-month closure of Boracay served as an eye opener for local government units, coastal communities and national agencies on the effects of unsustainable tourism practices.

“Moreover, this initiative has rippled through all of our provinces and municipalities, triggering an increased environmental consciousness to those living along the country’s coastline,” Leones added.

The DENR official said the country also expanded the coverage of the National Integrated Protected Area System or the NIPAS that established and reinforced additional terrestrial and coastal protected areas spread across the country.

He also cited the signing of Presidential Proclamation 489 declaring a portion of the Philippine Rise, more commonly known as Benham Rise, as a resource reserve.

The underwater region located off Luzon was found to harbor significantly large contiguous coral reefs in pristine condition, prompting the Convention of Biological Diversity to declare it as an “ecologically and biologically significant area.”

Leones said the Boracay rehabilitation, expansion of NIPAS coverage, protection of Philippine Rise and other coastal and marine conservation and protection activities signify the country’s continued commitment to international agreements, such as the CTI-CFF.

“Being an archipelagic country, we cannot emphasize further how important it is for our government to prioritize our seas,” Leones said. “The country recognizes the interconnectedness of our neighbor countries’ activities and management initiatives, which is why we continue to collaborate and strengthen our ties with existing regional cooperation.”

Leones assured that the Philippines, as a member of these regional cooperations, “shall give its utmost service and response to the call of other nations with regard to preserving our natural resources.” ### 

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