APART from its captivating multicolored sunsets and being considered as one of the world’s greatest harbors, Manila Bay has been known historically for being the site of the mock naval battle of the Spanish-American War in May 1898.
However, its natural beauty and historic importance has been ruined in the past years by the sight of plastic and all kinds of garbage in its waters plus the unpleasant smell of sewage in its surroundings.
President Duterte has threatened to close the establishments in the vicinity of Manila Bay if they continue doing nothing to stop its seemingly never-ending pollution. Everyone knows the President has done it before with the tourist destination Boracay which he called a cesspool and was closed for six months last year while undergoing a major cleanup.
For the poor, Manila Bay is their own version of Boracay where they can spend their afternoons and evenings swimming like the rich and famous, totally unmindful of the diseases they can acquire due to its unsanitary waters.
If Duterte truly wants to improve and rehabilitate the quality of Manila Bay’s water, the government should not only concentrate on establishments in the area but relocate about 40,000 informal settler families living along the shores.
According to Senate inquiry reports, fecal coliform levels increased from one million MPN/100 ml (most probable number/100 milliliters) to 5 MPN/100 ml since 1999. It added that about 90 percent of the pollution is from domestic waste which comes not only from nearby areas but from 16 major river systems that drain into the bay.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) intends to reduce the coliform level to less than 270 MPN by December 2019. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said they are giving establishments three months to put up their own sewage treatment plants (STPs) and cannot discharge their wastewater in the esteros.
Cimatu was disappointed to learn that the water sample from Estero de San Antonio, one of the dirtiest esteros connected to Manila Bay, contained 1.3 billion MPN/100 milliliter. They also discovered that that the Manila Zoo, which houses more than 600 animals, was discharging its waste water in that estero.
It would be hard to expect that people who spent most of their lives treating Manila Bay like their own private toilet could change their ways in an instant. Relocate them first and teach them discipline later. On the other hand, establishments would easily follow what the government tells them if they want to continue operations.
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