It has been a year since President Duterte ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in cooperation with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to launch a massive clean-up drive of Manila Bay, considered one the most stunning natural harbors in the world.
In my column on 2 February last year entitled “Restoring the luster of Manila Bay,” DENR boldly said that by the end of 2019, Filipinos can swim in the bay. I was hopeful then that the promise can be fulfilled and not be just mere ningas kugon.
While Manila Bay is still not fit for swimming and other forms of contact recreation today, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said the rehabilitation of Manila Bay remains its top priority in the next two years.
We need to understand that cleaning Manila Bay will not happen with a snap of a finger. DENR is doing this in three phases it hopes to complete over the next three to seven years.
The rehabilitation is currently in its first phase, which is the cleanup and water quality monitoring. The next two phases will be relocation of affected families in the bay area, education, protection and sustainment drive.
Since the campaign was launched in January last year, over 2.3 million kilograms of solid waste collected through cleanups, trash boats and garbage traps have been collected in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Luzon.
DENR/MMDA’s cleanup drive is similar to what the Metro Pacific Investments Foundation (MPIF), the corporate social responsibility arm of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), has been doing over the last 12 years, through its Shore It Up! (SIU) environmental awareness program, which focuses on underwater and coastal cleanup as core activity.
Last Thursday, MPIF added another site for its SIU program, signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Marinduque’s local government unit (LGU). Marinduque is the ninth province where SIU was launched, considered the country’s longest-running, corporate-backed environment program that partners with LGU for the sustainability of its projects.
The eight other provinces where SIU programs have been launched since 2009 are in Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bohol, Surigao del Norte, Cebu and Misamis Oriental.
Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco and MPIC chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan formalized the agreement, which would jump-start the establishment of the Shore It Up! Foundation in the province.
The program includes the inspection and conservation guardians (marine guardians), underwater cleanup activities, particularly in the province’s coral reefs, an information, education and communication (IEC) campaign to protect over 2,000 hectares of mangroves and eco-tourism promotion.
A popular destination among dive enthusiasts in the country and international dive afficionados, the island of Marinduque also attracts tourists for its rustic, calm and blissful atmosphere.
As with popular tourist attractions, Marinduque has had its share of pollution and ecological malpractice. These have resulted in negative effects to both underwater and coastal living.
Under the MoU, Shore It Up! plans to earmark specific efforts, as well as sustainable programs that will benefit not only the environment, but the local community of Marinduque as well.
According to Melody del Rosario, MPIF president, Shore It Up undertakes environmental issues in a holistic manner. The Foundation believes that for our environmental ecosystem to work, various marine and coastal support must be sustained with livelihood programs and proper education on environmental awareness.
To date, the program has protected 5,324 hectares of mangrove and established three mangrove information centers, trained 1,034 volunteer divers, 36 marine guards and 2,800 junior environmental scouts, assisted 180 families, and partnered with 464 public and private organizations through the help of close to 100,000 volunteers nationwide.
It takes a collaborative effort between the government and private sector to protect and preserve our country’s God-given natural resources and marine life. If we can succeed in restoring the beauty and luster of Manila Bay as well as other undiscovered shoreline and beaches, they all have the potential to become tourist attractions, which would in turn, contribute to our socio-economic development.
Let’s do our share today for the next generation to enjoy and appreciate.