Senator Cynthia Villar presided over a committee hearing to inquire into the strategies and measures being undertaken 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 to inquire into the steps taken by 13 government agencies under the writ of continuing mandamus issued by the Supreme Court.
“Nine years after the Supreme Court ordered the clean-up, the quality of the waters of Manila Bay has shown little and insignificant improvement. There appears to be an urgent need to take more drastic actions and to involve more entities to effectively clean-up Manila Bay and its ecosystem,” the veteran legislator said.
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, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Agriculture (DA) – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (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 manegment, 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 seasoned lawmaker 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.
“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 lady senator said.