By Chito Chavez
As the “Battle of Manila Bay” goes into high gear, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will convene Monday 178 city and municipal mayors to spell out to them their critical roles and responsibilities in the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año added the forum aims to keep the local chief executives (LCE) abreast of their roles in rehabilitating Manila Bay under the Supreme Court Mandamus.
“Local government units (LGUs) should be at the forefront of efforts to clean-up, rehabilitate, and preserve the waters of Manila Bay. They should, therefore, be more proactive in encouraging the support and cooperation of their constituents and other stakeholders to bring back the glory of Manila Bay,” said Año.
The “Manila Bay Watershed Area for the Local Chief Executives’ Forum on the Manila Bay Clean-up, Rehabilitation, and Preservation Program” at the New World Manila Bay Hotel in Manila will focus primarily on the strict enforcement of environmental laws that has long been neglected and which led to the sorry state of the bay now.
A Supreme Court (SC) decision dated 18 December 2008 and Resolution dated 15 February 2011, G.R. Nos. 171947-48, mandated the DILG and 12 other national government agencies to clean, rehabilitate, and preserve the Manila Bay in order to prevent the continuous cycle of man-made pollution.
To ensure compliance with the SC mandamus, the DILG directed all LGUs in Regions III, IV-A and NCR within the Manila Bay Watershed Area to do their part in helping the government wage the so-called “Battle of Manila Bay”.
One of the highlights of the forum is the dialogue with the secretaries where the local chief executives will have an opportunity to discuss with the mandamus agency heads the problems and issues that hamper the effectiveness of their efforts in rehabilitating Manila Bay.
The results of the current LGU Environmental Compliance assessment as well as Status Report: Informal Settler Families (ISFs) will also be tackled during the activity.
Also expected to attend the forum are the 178 city municipal environment and natural resource officers and representatives from the mandamus agencies.
Following efforts to rehabilitate and enforce environmental laws in Manila Bay, Boracay Island, and other tourist spots in the country, the DILG has issued show cause orders to 108 local chief executives for their failure to prepare and submit a 10-Year Solid Waste Management Plan as mandated under Republic Act 9003.
Most of the LGUs that will receive show-cause orders are from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a total of 78. Of this number, 31 are from Lanao del Sur; 18 from Sulu; 11 from Maguindanao; and nine apiece for Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.
Five LGUs from Mimaropa, eight from Region V; one from Region VI; and four each from Regions II, Calabarzon, VII, and VIII will also receive show-cause orders.
Año also directed the 108 LGUs to submit within 10 days from receipt of the orders a notarized explanation “on why no administrative penalty shall be recommended against you relative to the failure of your LGU to submit the 10-Year Solid Waste Management Plan.”
“If we are serious about protecting the environment, we really have to follow through with the implementation of these laws,’’ he added.
Año stressed the DILG has no recourse but to mete out sanctions against local chief executives (LCE) who are unable to vividly explain why no appropriate penalties should be imposed on them.
The DILG chief clarified the agency never acted in haste in issuing show cause orders stressing the environmental laws have long been in existence but poor implementation by the LGUs has resulted in the poor state of Boracay Island, Manila Bay, and similar tourist spots.
Based on the show cause orders issued by the DILG, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), through the DILG, “calls the attention of the LGUs regarding their responsibility under Republic Act No. 9003 to submit the 10-Year Solid Waste Management Plan.”
According to Section 16 of RA No. 9003 also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, all provinces, cities or municipalities through their Local Solid Waste Management Boards, shall prepare their respective 10-Year Solid Waste Management Plans consistent with the National Solid Waste Management Framework to be submitted to the NSWMC.
The DILG chief noted that to avoid pursuing further legal action, the Department is expecting the LGUs’ immediate submission and implementation of their 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan.