Senator Cynthia Villar presided over a committee hearing to review the strategies and measures implemented by government agencies mandated to clean-up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay.
Villar, chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, held the hearing on Proposed Senate Resolution No. 398 and 690 to look into the steps taken by 13 government agencies to comply with the writ of continuing mandamus issued by the Supreme Court.
“A decade after the Supreme Court ordered the clean-up, there is still no indication that the quality of the waters of Manila Bay has significantly improved,” the veteran said.
“Manila Bay is a historical landmark. It is known in the world because of its breathtaking sunset. Over 300,000 fishermen depend on it for livelihood. We owe it to our children to rehabilitate and preserve it so that they will continue to reap its benefits,” the seasoned lawmaker added.
On December 18, 2008, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in G.R.No. 171947-48 ordering 13 government agencies “to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay and restore and maintain its waters to SB level to make them fit for swimming, skin diving, and other forms of contact recreation.”
These agencies are the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Agriculture- Bureau of Fisheries (DA-BFAR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine National Police-Maritime Group (PNP-MG), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), and Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).
SB Level or Class B sea water under DENR’s Water Classification Tables is recreational water class for primarily contact recreation such as bathing, swimming, skin diving, or for tourism purpose.
According to the resolution, “Manila Bay and its diverse ecosystem are constantly exposed to the inimical effects of the various human activities, which include improper solid waste management, inefficient sewerage system, the lingering challenge of having informal settlements along coastal areas and other waterways, water pollution, thereby contributing to the continuing degradation of Manila Bay.”
The lady senator also filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 690 to inquire into the efforts done by PPA as the agency tasked to regulate and oversee ports in the country in the clean-up, rehabilitation and preservation of Manila Bay.
Under the writ of mandamus, PPA was given the specific duty “to immediately adopt such measures to prevent the discharge and dumping of solid and liquid wastes and other ship-generated wastes into the Manila Bay waters from vessels docked at ports and apprehend the violators.”
“Given its duties, it is also the responsibility of PPA to ensure that the operation of the port of Manila and the structures built within its environs are consistent with the effort to revive Manila Bay,” she said.
“The burgeoning informal settlement on the Manila Bay coastal area at the port of Manila, particularly near the Manila International Container Terminal, not just affect the efficacy of the operation of the port, but actually hampers the efforts towards the clean up,” Villar added.
The lady senator said the high court’s mandamus is an indication that the Manila Bay problem should not be regarded as a matter affecting only the more than 34 million people living within the basin area but also as a national concern that should be addressed by national government agencies.