By DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—One day, the waters of the Manila Bay may again be worthy of its famed sunset.
Or at least that’s the ambition behind the “One Day One Bay” campaign of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) that will launch on Nov. 26 a massive cleanup drive around Metro Manila.
From 6 a.m. to 12 noon on that Saturday, some 10,000 students, employees and volunteers will roll up their sleeves and wade into the dirty waters of the Manila Bay, as well as sections of rivers and creeks that drain into it, to jump start the clean up drive, officials said on Friday.
The target of the campaign, according to Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo, is to reduce pollution in the bay and river systems connected to it by half and increase vegetation by 25 percent within four years.
“I hope that this project will [cause] ripples and lead to continuous concern for the environment,” he said.
“We may not notice it but we are slowly killing ourselves here in Metro Manila. In this most urbanized zone of the country, we are generating the most toxic environment. There is an urgency to respond to this call of nature and we will unite for this cause on One Day One Bay,” he said.
DILG-National Capital Region Director Renato Brion, who will lead the campaign in Metro Manila, said the city of Manila will lead the cleanup operation in the bay, particularly at the Rajah Solayman Park fronting the bay on Roxas Boulevard in Malate.
The 16 other cities and towns in Metro Manila will hold their own cleanup operations in waterways connected to the Manila Bay, including the Pasig River, he said in a press briefing on Friday at the DILG offices in Quezon City.
There are no specific targets, but Brion expects the project to collect at least 100 trucks of garbage to be disposed of properly in coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
Reviving a river
“It’s so easy to kill a water system like a river, but it takes a lifetime to revive it,” said Assistant Secretary Rolando Acosta, chair of the DILG’s Manila Bay Technical Working Group.
During a recent boating tour, he said he had personally seen the sorry state of the Manila Bay, particular the “oily waters and all the floating garbage” in it.
“This is the result of inter-generational neglect,” Acosta said.
He added that it should take not just “one day” but a daily operation, or at the very least once a month activity, in order to see significant progress in the Manila Bay rehabilitation effort.
Manila Bay serves as the drain for waters coming from Metro Manila, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), and Central Luzon.
Although the minimum coliform count for clean waters is 1,000 MPN (most probable number) per 100 milliliters, the worst areas in the Manila bay contain as much as 416,666.667 MPN per 100 ml.
The mangrove cover of Manila Bay has also deteriorated from 54,000 hectares in 1890 to only 425 in 2005. The fish catch has declined by 85 percent since 1970.
“If this trend continues, we can clearly imagine what may eventually happen to us,” Robredo said.
Officials said 80 percent of the pollution in Manila Bay comes from households. There are some 677,684 households of informal settlers living around the waterways that lead to the bay.
“The answer to this challenge is simple: Throw your trash in garbage disposal units and segregate. Even if many of us know this reality, majority have become numb to putting it in action,” Brion said.
“Many Filipinos do not realize the inter-jurisdictional effect of our indifference to nature. The people of Metro Manila all share the same waters, thus, we are subjected to the hazards that flow with it,” he said.