Legarda: Manila Bay Rehab to Benefit 23 Million Filipinos

October 8, 2013

Senator Loren Legarda today stressed the need for cooperation between and among government agencies, local government units and citizens to rehabilitate the Manila Bay, which affects the life and livelihood of 23 million Filipinos.


During a briefing by agencies tasked to cleanup the Manila Bay, Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said that the degradation of Manila Bay will not only affect those living in coastal areas, which depend on it for food and livelihood, but also those living within its watershed whose health can be affected by the Bay’s polluted waters.


“Instead of pinning the blame on anyone, we must, instead, work together to cleanup Manila Bay. We must ensure that the liquid waste from households and other establishments are being treated before these are thrown into the Bay. We must also ensure that solid waste are not thrown into its waters,” said Legarda.


The Senator lamented that about 1,500 tons of waste are illegally dumped daily on private land, in rivers, creeks and in the Manila Bay, according to a study by the Asian Development Bank.


Furthermore, previous audits undertaken by Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition showed that at least 70% of Manila Bay wastes are plastic bags and packaging.


“We must revisit the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act to see how we have been implementing this law, otherwise, all efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay would only go to waste. Unless we learn how to manage our waste, starting with proper garbage segregation and disposal, we will never be able to clean our waters and our communities,” she said.


Meanwhile, Legarda directed that a Senate technical working group (TWG) be formed involving the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and its two concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water, to reassess the timeline for compliance with the Supreme Court’s order to MWSS and its concessionaires to help cleanup Manila Bay, particularly through more investments in sewerage facilities.


During the briefing, MWSS officials claimed that the deadline for their 100% compliance with the SC mandate is on 2037. But Legarda stressed that would be too long because the rehabilitation of Manila Bay should be accomplished sooner.


Legarda also noted the evident habitat loss and degradation around the Bay area, such as diminishing mangrove forests, coral reefs and seagrass beds, affecting the capability of the Bay to sustain marine life.


Records from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) show that in 1890, about 54,000 hectares of mangrove surrounded the bay. A hundred years later, or in 1990, only 2,000 hectares of mangrove remained; and in 1995, only 794 hectares remained.


The Senator stressed that, “Mangroves are one of the most important ecosystems because they serve not only as nursery grounds for various fish species but also as shield from storm surges and rising sea levels.”


Legarda also stressed the economic benefits of the Manila Bay. A humble estimate of the economic value of selected major uses of the Bay, such as offshore fisheries, aquaculture, ports and harbors, and tourism, is placed at P8.7 billion annually.


However, about P4 billion in damages are incurred annually, caused by the polluted waters of the Bay.


“Let us reclaim Manila Bay’s stunning beauty and proclaim its significance. And let us, above all, work towards a healthy, sustainable and disaster resilient future through concerted cleanup efforts,” said Legarda.