Don’t get overexcited and I am not dashing your hope, but that start of the Manila Bay clean-up last week was just that — a start.
Its water will not turn crystal blue overnight.
Its beach will not form sand in a decade.
Fish will not come back in five or so breeding cycles.
But, if statements by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are accurate, the clean-up would start all things needed to rehabilitate Manila Bay.
“Manila Bay, despite its beauty and history, is a victim of progress and then the urban decay that followed it.
Manila Bay, despite its beauty and history, is a victim of progress and then the urban decay that followed it.
The Roxas Boulevard that we know today used to be Malate’s beachfront. Yes, Malate had a beach!
Malate Church, which used to be the tallest building in Ermita, faced the beach where Japanese and American planes fought aerial dogfights.
The beach was for lovers to stroll on.
It was for family picnics, where boys and girls had their first swimming lessons when the poor could not afford to enter even the public pools.
It was where the boys had their first dip after undergoing their first rites of manhood.
All those are gone now.
But on weekends still, we could see occasional anglers catching small fish that defied poison and oil until the lure was its last chance at an honorable death.
Paddlers still compete in its murky waters.
Children whose families still could not afford to use public pools continue to swim there.
Every year, the government tried to symbolically clean its waters. Who would forget Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada’s gaffe of throwing trash back into its water for him to collect to be able to emphasize that the city government is doing something to keep Manila Bay clean?
But that was just that. All for show.
We could only hope the latest clean-up is for good. Government is using its approach in Boracay as an example of showing political will in bringing back Manila Bay to life.
But keeping it clean will take more than a day of full-force mobilization of government workers and students to emphasize the clean-up project.
Manila has to shape up.
Its neighbor-cities have to follow strict rules on keeping clean their environment to help the nation’s capital — and the national government — achieve the dream of seeing a breathing, living bay.
But it will take more than the P47-billion budget allocated for the initial phase of the clean-up. It would need more than that. Not double, not triple, but more.
Most important, however, is discipline from the people. Not only from the people of Manila or Navotas or Valenzuela. Cavite and Bataan contribute to the trash that wash ashore along Roxas Boulevard.
Local tourists never cared to throw their wastes in baskets when they promenade at the bay.
There are settlers still. They need to be relocated, supported and explained why it is a must.
It’s not going to be quick like a magic. All of us should contribute to make this effort magical.
It is considered auspicious to clean up your place like you have never cleaned it before 15 days before the Chinese New Year.
“There are environmental regulations that exist and, in this case, the local government units must be held responsible for the enforcement of these rules.
President Duterte is, of course, not Chinese, but this time around his mandate to clean up the mess that is Manila Bay is perfect for the turn of a new lunar year. It certainly led to amazed netizens expressing their wonder at how such a stinky dump could appear like the famed bay it used to be.
Say what you want about the ornery, tactless, outspoken Rodrigo Dutz, but the Manila Bay “transformation” was widely applauded. The President, once more, sternly warned businesses to comply with environment regulations or face closure.
So, two Sundays ago, volunteers participated in a clean-up along Manila Bay, signaling the start of its long-dreamed rehabilitation. The area, reports note, had been targeted just three months after the government’s similar efforts to bring back Boracay.
This was because a water sampling had shown alarming results — “The bay’s average fecal coliform level was at 330 million most probable number (mpn), 3.3 million times above the standard 100 mpn that is ideal for swimming,” goes one report.
Three-point-three million times above standard, in this case, spells not excellence but massive neglect and abuse.
In fact, after that clean-up initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently, the news blared that 45 tons of garbage had been collected.
Writer Mikaela Zulueta in wheninmanila.com said: “Photos of a cleaner and brighter Manila Bay have been circulating after the clean-up efforts last 27 January. Around 5,000 volunteers and government workers put in the work to clear up the coastline. Simultaneous clean-up activities were also being held in Navotas, Las Piñas, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan.”
Manila Bay, according to information on the Internet, is bounded by Cavite and Metro Manila.
What is normally associated with it is the area seen along Roxas Boulevard, but the fact is it covers Bulacan and Pampanga, as well as Bataan.
The harbor is then the hapless victim to the cavalier attitude of those depositing garbage and pollutants from all these places.
There are environmental regulations that exist and, in this case, the local government units must be held responsible for the enforcement of these rules.
Manila Bay’s ecosystem consists of “coastal and marine habitats” that include “upland forests, mangrove, mudflats, sandy beaches, sea grass and coral reefs.”
Not many of us are aware of these as all we know is a body of water that offers some of the most fantastic sunsets in the metro. Sadly, however, the smell emanating from it during summer season signifies a level of pollution that we are now only getting to know by the horrific numbers.
It is also telling how local officials wrangled over how to make use of the area in terms of being a tourist attraction. One may recall Manila mayors, one of whom allowed the area along Roxas Boulevard to host establishments, making it a seaside dining nightspot and then the next mayor tearing it down for the noise pollution, among other reasons.
Yet we have hardly heard of anyone taking steps to ensure that the residents and businesses in the surrounding areas were complying with the environmental laws to keep our natural resources healthy.
Land reclamation and conversion also ate up some of the natural habitats around the bay.
Developments around the area continue to this day. Illegal settlements have also compounded a growing environmental problem that, if we only cared to discover, affects a wider swathe of issues including, foremost, the global problem called climate change.
This is why the Manila Bay rehabilitation has sparked so much interest among the general populace. All of us have felt the effects of climate change to a point nowadays that no one can afford to ignore the fact something must be done.
This administration’s efforts to stem the flow of degradation are noticed, yes, but it cannot work alone. Everyone must participate and make conservation a way of life.
Beyond smells and dirty waters, there are the floods that inundate urban areas and dying species of animals — all of which are connected to the smallest acts of improper trash disposal — to the massive changes made on the natural environment in the name of progress.
And so, beyond clean-up drives that will take months and maybe years to control and prevent further degradation, there must also be a consistent effort to educate the public even as government invests on setting up proper structures that would keep our natural environment alive.