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Clean up Boracay, also Manila Bay

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5

“Clean up Boracay or I will close it,” President Duterte told Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) early this week. “Boracay is a cesspool. During the days I was there,” he said, the garbage was just 20 meters from the beach.” He said 11 of 180 establishments inventoried by the DENR just dumped their waste materials in the drainage canal.

It is truly unfortunate that this island which has become a favorite attraction to millions of tourists from all over the world, has now been called a cesspool. We can expect the number of tourist visitors to diminish.

But it is better that the problem is exposed now so it can be solved, rather than be allowed to fester beyond solution – or close to it – as is now the case with many beautiful natural sites in the country which have been polluted for decades.

We have in mind Manila Bay, this historic body of water that explorers once entered to reach Manila on the Pasig. If Boracay is becoming a cesspool, Manila Bay has long been one. Its waters are so polluted swimming is not allowed. Sewage flows in from the Pasig river and the many other other rivers and streams that drain Metro Manila and towns in Laguna, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, and Cavite.

In 2008, the Supreme Court, acting on a complaint filed by citizens, issued a landmark decision ordering 13 government agencies “to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay, restore and maintain its waters to make them fit for swimming, skindiving, and other forms of contact recreation.”

As in the Boracay case today the DENR was designated the primary agency responsible for implementing the court order. It was ordered to coordinate with the other agencies. Because the major cause of the pollution was untreated sewage dumped into the rivers flowing into Manila Bay – the Department of Interior and Local Government was ordered to coordinate with the local governments to inspect all factories and houses dumping their wastes on the banks of the rivers that flowed into the Pasig and then into Manila Bay.

Boracay has the big advantage of being an island in the sea and so President Duterte noted the garbage floating 20 meters from the beach. Manila Bay is an enclosed body of water with a narrow inlet connecting it to the South China Sea. The pollution thus tends to collect and worsen within the confines of the bay.

President Duterte has given Secretary Cimatu six months to clean up Boracay. We urge him to take similar decisive action to clean up Manila Bay, 10 years after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision which has not been heeded at all.

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