MANILA - Several Cabinet secretaries on Sunday led thousands of government workers and volunteers, some carrying broomsticks and trash bags, in launching the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, a popular tourist spot long plagued by a waste problem.
Some 5,000 people marched from the Quirino Grandstand to the Baywalk area to kick off the inter-agency cleanup that the environment department expects will take years.
Simultaneous clean-up activities were also held in Navotas, Las Piñas, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan, which have estuaries that flow into the capital's bay.
Among those who led the event were Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, national police chief Director Oscar Albayalde and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Danilo Lim.
Año ordered local governments flanking the Manila Bay to mount weekly cleanups in their areas. Failure to do so would warrant penalties, he warned.
The public works department will procure trash skimmers solely allocated for the bay, said Villar.
The rehabilitation plan was set after President Rodrigo Duterte warned establishments along the bay to comply with environment regulations or face closure.
Results of a water sampling in the area showed that Manila Bay's average fecal coliform level was at 330 million most probable number (mpn), 3.3 million times above the standard 100 mpn that is ideal for swimming.
The DENR said some 40,000 families living near the bay were major contributors to pollution.
Some P47 billion will be needed to clean up Manila Bay, said DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.
The government is eyeing the use of revenue from the road user’s tax to fund the rehabilitation, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said,
The cleanup came about 3 months after Boracay Island underwent a half-year rehabilitation.
With reports from Jekki Pascual, Kevin Manalo and Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News