Thoughts on Manila Bay clean-up


A lot has been said about the ongoing Manila Bay clean-up. The pictures online speak the truth — and it is off to a good start. Naysayers and critics make noise that this is all a farce, that similar clean-ups have done the same before and this is destined to fail. Of them all, I am most disappointed to see how revered Carlos Celdran, now self-exiled in Madrid, has been publishing discouraging posts on how this is a mere band-aid solution and that how people should think long-term — Not helpful at all.

“The true significance of this project is how it has breathed life into a decision issued by the Judicial branch.

Those pulling the project down have been purposely ignorant that the clean-up will indeed take years, until 2022 to be exact, pursuant to the Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy and will cost billions which have already been allocated by the government.

And, for reference, they should see how the Boracay clean-up has impacted the environmental cleanliness and raw aesthetic beauty of the island paradise. After being labelled as a “cesspool” by the President, it is fast gaining back its reputation as a pristine white beach island with waters clean enough for babies to bathe in.

Indeed, the success of the Boracay clean-up last year was enough for the President to direct Secretary Roy Cimatu to do the same for Manila Bay. Now with more experience and a script for success, Cimatu is trailblazing this effort like a man on a mission. There may have been many critics of this administration and its policies but there have been few, if not, nonexistent opposition or criticism to the results of the actions and efforts of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in saving and rehabilitating the environment.

The effectiveness of the secretary in leading the DENR is this administration’s best example of why the President puts his trusts in military men, regardless of the mandate of the office. Their discipline and accuracy in accomplishing their mission allow this administration to simply get things done. Something tells me that Sen. Gregorio Honasan will do the same once he takes the helm of Department of Information and Communication Technology, albeit armed with his Jurassic phone.

The Manila Bay clean-up has garnered a lot of support. House Committee on Ecology chairman Rep. Dakila Cua said it well, on behalf of the House of Representatives, to wit: “The Committee of Ecology and its members fully support the rehabilitation. As part of the whole-of-government approach, we are open to proposing legislation to complement the efforts of the Executive.”

As for the Senate, it is definitely Sen. Cynthia Villar who is most delighted since this clean-up stands to benefit her district, Las Piñas, and for her two ongoing projects related to and most affected by this: the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park and Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance at the Baseco Compound in Manila.

Definitely, the clean-up has been having great success with the proactive participation of the Executive and Legislative branches but the true significance of this project is how it has breathed life into a decision issued by the Judicial branch. In 2008, the Supreme Court (SC) issued MMDA v. Concerned Citizens of Manila Bay, G.R 171947-48, where the High Court of the land issued a continuing mandamus to compel government agencies to preserve and protect Manila Bay. Penned by now retired Associate Justice Presbiterio Velasco Jr., the decision is a thorough discussion on the sorry state of Manila Bay more than a decade ago and how it may be best protected. May I invite Carlos Celdran and other naysayers to read this excerpt from the decision:

“The clean-up and/or restoration of Manila Bay is only an aspect and the initial stage of the long-term solution. The preservation of the water quality of the bay after the rehabilitation process is as important as the cleaning phase. It is imperative then that the wastes and contaminants found in the rivers, inland bays and other bodies of water be stopped from reaching Manila Bay. Otherwise, any clean-up effort would just be a futile, cosmetic exercise, for, in no time at all, the Manila Bay water quality would again deteriorate below the ideal minimum standards set by PD 1152, RA 9275 and other relevant laws.… Under what other judicial discipline describes as continuing mandamus, the Court may, under extraordinary circumstances, issue directives with the end in view of ensuring that its decision would not be set to naught by administrative inaction or indifference. In India, the doctrine of continuing mandamus was used to enforce directives of the court to clean up the length of the Ganges River from industrial and municipal pollution.”

Truly, this SC directive via continuing mandamus is nearing full circle, from its first RTC hearing held at the Manila Yacht Club and its ocular inspection thereafter to a celebrated clean-up drive attended by the administration’s top officials. I pray for the success of Secretary Cimatu and his men at the DENR. Though there may be some supposed and unverified underlying agenda for this clean-up (i.e., reclamation in Manila, airport city in Cavite), these are the by-products of an administration that is capable of producing results. Big businesses follow effective leaders, after all.

When all this is done, I hope that the President still has time to give Secretary Cimatu his next mission, to which I offer a humble suggestion: the Pasig River clean-up.


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