Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu on Wednesday met with Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta and five other justices of the Supreme Court to discuss the ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the historic Manila Bay.

Cimatu also gave the magistrates a tour of the “white sand beach” and other developments along the Baywalk area, the focal point of the Manila Bay rehabilitation project.

This is pursuant to the 2008 writ of continuing mandamus issued by the high court directing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and 12 other agencies to restore Manila Bay’s water quality to a level fit for swimming and bathing.

Peralta praised the DENR and other mandamus agencies for their “diligence” and “determination” to comply with the 12-year-old directive.

“Hindi lang sila (mandamus agencies) sumusunod, sumusunod nang husto. Nakita naman namin na maayos ang ginagawa,” the Chief Justice said.

Prior to the tour, Cimatu and the justices held a meeting at a nearby hotel where the environment chief gave an update on the status of the Duterte administration’s cleanup efforts dubbed as “Battle for Manila Bay.”

“Today, we are pleased to be given the chance to present to you the fruits of our commitment and continuous collaboration with the mandamus agencies and other institutions,” Cimatu said in his opening remarks.

“We are honored to be given the chance to showcase what we have done so far and to present what we have planned to do more for the bay,” he added.

Cimatu said the “long overdue” rehabilitation of Manila Bay gained momentum last year when no less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave a tall order to clean up the historic water body as he formed the Manila Bay Task Force led by the DENR.

As a strategy, Cimatu said the government is not just cleaning up the bay, but the sources of trash upstream. “The cleanup is a continuing and sustained activity where the communities and local government units are made integral part of the efforts.”

The DENR chief said the cleanup is coupled with culture and behavior change communication interventions.

“This is because we firmly believe that reforming attitudes and behavior towards responsible environmental citizenship and institutionalizing cultural reforms are the key ingredients in making the rehabilitation successful,” Cimatu said.

Despite the limited movements and restrictions due to COVID-19, Cimatu said the government was still able to accomplish much to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

“In a nutshell, our accomplishments include, among others, employing geo-engineering solutions, beach nourishment project, dredging and desilting activities, and construction of sewage treatment plant (STP),” Cimatu said.

“In the days to come, we will see the completion of the construction of a circumferential sewage interceptor and communal septic tank specifically for the BASECO area,” he added.

The former Armed Forces chief, meanwhile, assured the justices that the DENR was not bothered at all by what critics say of the government’s rehabilitation efforts, particularly the beach nourishment project.

Cimatu said the DENR has always been “transparent” about the undertaking, which enjoys tremendous support from the public.

“Are we bothered? Certainly not. As long as we are performing our duties right, we need not bothered,” Cimatu said with conviction.

“For now, we will continue our battle for Manila Bay. With collective efforts, tasks are done with relative ease,” he concluded.

In response, Peralta said he was impressed with the outcome of the government’s cleanup efforts, particularly with the low coliform level of wastewater coming out of the STP located along Roxas Boulevard.

After passing through the STP, the wastewater from three major drainage outfalls—Padre Faura, Remedios and Estero de San Antonio Abad—is measured at 49 most probable number per 100 milliliters, which is below the required 200 mpn/100ml for Class SB waters, considered the safe level for swimming.

Peralta was joined by Associate Justices Rodil Zalameda, Mario Lopez, Ramon Paul Hernando, Edgardo de los Santos and Ricardo Rosario.

Also present at the meeting were Court Administrator Midas Marquez, SC Spokesperson and Public Information Office Chief Brian Keith Osaka, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Roberto R. Bernardo and Director Ador Canlas of the DPWH-National Capital Region. #