MANILA- Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Tuesday appealed to over a hundred city and town mayors to help in the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay.
Cimatu urged a total of 178 mayors of cities and towns surrounding the bay to clean up "esteros" or waterways in their respective areas connected to the Manila Bay.
“We have to clean all 47 esteros and all the rivers that contribute to the pollution of Manila Bay. Walang maiiwan, iisa-isahin natin (There shall be none left behind, we will go one by one),” Cimatu said during the Local Executives’ Forum on the Manila Bay Cleanup, Rehabilitation and Preservation Program on Monday.
“Once we clean the esteros and rivers, garbage will not go out to Manila Bay. We’ll make it a point that the water that reaches Manila Bay is clean,” he added.
The environment chief also reminded local government units of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 that requires local officials to be responsible for waste segregation and disposal in their respective localities.
“It’s the mayors and the LGUs who have the main authority over the signing of the contract with garbage collection contractors. I hope that after signing the contracts, the LGUs check that contractors follow what is stipulated in the contract,” Cimatu said.
The Manila Bay rehabilitation, which experts said could take years and is estimated at P47 billion, came after Boracay island underwent a 6-month rehabilitation.
Among rivers connected to the bay that need to be cleaned are the Tullahan River, which flows through several cities, Vitas in Tondo, Manila, and the Pasig and Parañaque rivers, Cimatu said.
“Even if it takes us one, two or three years to clean these rivers, we have to do it,” he said.
Aside from the cleanup, relocation of informal settlers is also part of the Manila Bay rehabilitation. Shanties along esteros are a known source of trash that eventually go into the bay.
Cimatu said there are currently 220,000 informal settlers along esteros that lead to the Manila Bay but only around 10,000 can be relocated yearly.
Government initiated the rehabilitation of Manila Bay last month, with President Rodrigo Duterte warning establishments along the body of water to comply with environment regulations or face closure.
While cleanup efforts have rid the bay's shore of garbage, its waters continue to be hazardous for swimming as its level of fecal coliform remains high.