MANILA – Is there hope for a cleaner and better Manila Bay?
A glimmer of hope has emerged after the Supreme Court ordered government agencies to report in oral arguments on the pollution in Manila Bay, the steps being taken, the reclamation projects, and their environmental impact.
The order was made as the High Tribunal, in an en banc session, resolved to conduct oral arguments as regards G.R. No. 171947-48 or the case of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, et al. (petitioners) v. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, et al. (respondents) and Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party (intervenor).
The concerned agencies, according to published reports in Manila, were ordered to report on:
- Their measurement benchmarks of the pollution in Manila Bay;
- Current government strategies being implemented to comply with their mandate to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters to SB level (Class B Sea waters per Water Classification Tables under Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] Order No. 34 ) to make them fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation;
- Realistic targets for the next five years; and
- Ongoing reclamations and their respective environmental impact assessments especially their effect on pollution.
The agencies ordered to respond by the SC resolution include the MMDA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Budget and Management, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.
Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga in early August said that all reclamation projects in Manila Bay were under review and were thus deemed suspended, GMA Integrated News reported.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has said earlier that all reclamation projects in Manila Bay except one had been suspended due to problems in their implementation.
Marcos did not specify which projects had been suspended, but he lamented that the sea along Roxas Boulevard could disappear due to the reclamation projects.
The DENR said it had been conducting cumulative impact assessments on the reclamation projects to demonstrate their effects on Manila Bay.
Loyzaga said that a scientific team, which will include social scientists, oceanographers, and geologists, would be part of the review.
At least three senators have welcomed Marcos’ decision, including Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources chairperson Sen. Cynthia Villar, who earlier warned that the reclamation projects in Manila Bay may cause six to eight-meter flooding in Las Piñas and nearby areas.
The US Embassy in Manila, which is situated by the Manila Bay, has raised concerns on the reclamation projects for the projects’ ties with China Communications Construction Co., a firm cited by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for engaging in fraudulent business practices. (Jennifer T. Santos)