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Clean Manila Bay a Duterte Legacy

The rehabilitation of Manila Bay is one major legacy that President Duterte can proudly leave to the nation. It is a gargantuan task but I believe the government can do it.


No Philippine president has succeeded in cleaning up Manila Bay, but Mr. Duterte can rely on his high trust rating to finish the job, just as he successfully implemented the rehabilitation of Boracay Island.


The Boracay cleanup has emboldened local government officials to implement environmental laws, especially the observance of the 30-meter easement from the shoreline. The paradise island in no time was significantly rehabilitated, with foreign and local tourists now finding Boracay a much cleaner destination.


The Manila Bay rehabilitation, meanwhile, will be more expansive because it requires the cooperation of several local government units and provinces. The job will require an integrated effort due to the number of people and companies that contribute to the filthy water of Manila Bay.


Laguna de Bay, several rivers, tributaries and smaller waterways all empty their filth into Manila Bay, while many commercial establishments that operate near or along these bodies of water are allegedly contributing to the pollution.


Metro Manila and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Pampanga and Bataan must also contribute to the rehabilitation efforts. Cleaning up Manila Bay will open many job opportunities along with its coastal areas that stretch from Cavite and Metro Manila to the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan.


A clean Manila Bay will certainly boost a lot of fishermen along its shoreline and maximize the tourism potential of the area. Hotels and other establishments along the coastline can serve more tourists who want to enjoy the sight of the Manila Bay sunset.


Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources concedes that the task is enormous because it will involve the relocation of thousands of informal settlers along the Pasig River, esteros and canals.


“We need to find out where the outfalls come from individuals because in just one estero we can find lots of outfalls,” said Cimatu. According to the DENR chief, the quality of water at Manila Bay known for its famous sunset is “330 million times” dirtier than the waters of Boracay Island.


Mr. Duterte was firm in his directive in early January to rehabilitate Manila Bay and warned establishments along the bay that he would not hesitate to order their closure if they challenge his call. 


“Whether they like it or not, all of them, including the hotels, must put water treatment there for the waste discharge, or else I will shut them down,” said the President.


“Do not challenge me. If we do not have tourists, so be it. We are not going to die without them. You do something about your waste there, or we will have you closed down. That’s for sure,” he added.


Tourism may suffer a slight dent if the government will close down some business establishments and hotels found to be contributing to Manila Bay’s pollution. But the impact may not be worse as feared.


Foreign tourist arrivals still reached a record 7.12 million in 2018, up 7.6 percent from 6.62 million in 2017, despite the six-month closure of Boracay Island. The government may have missed the target to attract at least 7.4 million foreign tourists in 2018 because of the Boracay shutdown, but the figure will likely rebound in 2019 with a healthier and much-cleaner Boracay.


Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat remains upbeat in the aftermath of Boracay’s closure. The Boracay shutdown, according to her, evidently became a blessing in disguise for secondary tourism spots to have a share of the limelight and attention they truly deserve.


“It shows that turning off the faucet when the water is unclear can bring a fresher flow in just an unexpected period of time,” said Romulo Puyat.


Foreign and local tourists flocked to Siargao, Iloilo, Palawan, La Union, Romblon and Siquijor while Boracay was resolving its environmental issues.


The rehabilitation of Manila Bay may take a longer time than Boracay’s cleanup. But it is an investment that will yield a long-term reward for the nation as a whole.