ENVIRONMENT Secretary Roy Cimatu has assured Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and five other Supreme Court justices that they will not buckle down with their rehabilitation efforts in Manila Bay despite criticisms from several sectors, particularly on the beach nourishment project.
Cimatu made the assurance during his recent meeting with Peralta and five other justices wherein he reported the ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the historic Manila Bay.
Cimatu told the justices that the DENR had 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.
“For now, we will continue our battle for Manila Bay. With collective efforts, tasks are done with relative ease,” Cimatu added.
Also during the meeting, Cimatu expressed his gratitude for the chance given to him to present to the justices the fruits of their commitment and continuous collaboration with the mandamus agencies and other institutions.
In 2008, the SC issued a writ of continuing mandamus directing the DENR and 12 other agencies to restore Manila Bay’s water quality to a level fit for swimming and bathing.
“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.
For his part, 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.
Following the meeting, Cimatu toured the magistrates at the controversial “white sand beach” and other developments along the Baywalk area, the focal point of the Manila Bay rehabilitation project.
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.