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Kaya at puwede pala

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It was the first social media “challenge” that I accepted. On the morning of 27 January and with my family in tow, I drove to Roxas Boulevard to participate in what would be the most sustained and game-changing event, the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

Dubbed the “Battle for Manila Bay,” I wanted my children to join the clean-up drive to educate them about the significance of preserving and protecting nature and the environment to secure their future. It also helps that my children are environmentally aware.

I drove by Roxas Boulevard to see the impact of the clean-up drive on the people of Metro Manila. What I saw almost made me cry

Never did I imagine this initiative of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to bring back the old glory of the world-famous bay would spawn into a much larger effort and spark national interest to clean up not the metro’s many waterways. The initiative also served as a wake-up call – that it’s time to start caring about the environment.

Immediately after the launch in Manila, simultaneous clean-up activities were held at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) and the Marine Tree Park in Navotas in the National Capital Region.

In Region 3, volunteers in the towns of Obando, Bulacan, Mariveles, Bataan, Guagua, Pampanga also joined the rehabilitation initiative, while a similar activity was held at Talaba Dos in Bacoor, Cavite.

Acting in unison, government agencies like the Departments of Tourism, Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development, Trade and Industry, National Defense and Science and Technology joined the campaign.

The Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, National Housing Authority, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, Manila Water Company Inc., Maynilad Water Services Inc., various local government units, non-government organizations and other stakeholders also threw in their support.

Never did I imagine this initiative of Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to bring back the old glory of the world-famous bay would spawn a much larger effort

Not surprisingly, a week after the launch, my daughter borrowed my car because her classmates from a university in Caloocan wanted to see the transformation of Manila Bay from what they read and saw from social media, news reports and other sources.

Intrigued by the renewed interest in Manila Bay, I drove by Roxas Boulevard to see the impact of the clean-up drive to the people of Metro Manila. What I saw almost made me cry.

Hundreds of people lining along the seawall fronting the Aristocrat Restaurant in Remedios all the way to the U.S. Embassy. There were even beach tents as people enjoyed the clean beach. Yes, there is now a beach there! There were students, police, workers and local and foreign tourists, enjoying the sweet smell of the sea and the beauty of Manila Bay’s sunset – minus the usual putrid smell from human feces and garbage.

So, this is political will.

For decades, past administrations have made similar actions to rid Manila Bay of pollution, but bringing it back to its pristine condition had been very slow. It took the will of the Duterte administration to bring something concrete and sustainable.

Kapag ginusto, kaya at puwede pala.

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