THE chairman of the House committee on natural resources has sought a congressional inquiry into the status of the cleanup drive of the heavily polluted Manila Bay as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., who chairs the panel and whose district is one of the provinces around Manila Bay, filed House Resolution (HR) No. 247 directing his committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the status of Manila Bay rehabilitation and the cleanup of water tributaries leading to it, as ordered by Duterte and by the continuing writ of mandamus of the Supreme Court.
A writ of mandamus is an order from a court to a government agency or agencies to do something, in this case, to clean up Manila Bay.
“The continuous pollution of Manila Bay has impacted the health and livelihood of the coastal communities and produced deleterious effects on the marine life and resources in Manila Bay and contingent waters and tributaries leading to the bay,” Barzaga pointed out.
On December 18, 2008 in the case of MMDA vs Concerned Residents of Manila Bay (G.R. Nos. 17147-48), Barzaga said the SC issued a continuing mandamus against different government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay, and to restore and maintain its waters to Class B Level that is fit for swimming, skin-driving and other forms of contact recreation.
Barzaga recalled that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) was ordered by the SC “to direct all LGUs in Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan to inspect all factories, commercial establishments and private homes along the banks of the major river systems in their respective areas of jurisdiction.”
He said the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) was directed to maintain water treatment facilities while the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), through water districts, was tasked to set up sanitation facilities and ensure the efficient and safe collection, treatment and disposal of sewage in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan “at the earliest possible time.”
On the other hand, he said the Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) was ordered “to improve and restore marine life of Manila Bay.”
Other agencies ordered by the SC to help in the Manila Bay cleanup, according to him, are the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Philippine National Police Maritime Group (PNPMG), the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Department of Education (DepEd) and other agencies.
The Department of Health (DoH) was likewise ordered by the SC, “within one year from finality of the decision,” to determine if all licensed septic and sludge companies have the proper facilities for the treatment and disposal of fecal sludge and sewage coming from septic tanks, he said.
Despite the SC decision in 2008 and Resolution in 2011, Barzaga lamented, Manila Bay “continued to be the most polluted in the country, serving as a giant “waste dump” for the metropolis and adjacent cities where domestic sewage toxic industrial effluents from factories leachate from garbage dumps and other substances continue to pollute its waters”.