The two concessionaires of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) disclosed this week their programs and plans for treating wastewater in Metro Manila as part of the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
When the national government launched the Manila Bay clean-up project, following the reopening of Boracay to tourists six months after it was closed down in May last year, former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza pointed out that Manila Bay, which he said had become a “giant septic tank,” was a problem hundred times worse than Boracay’s “cesspool.” He said the two MWSS water concessionaires were supposed to operate plants to treat all of Metro Manila’s wastewater which now flows into the bay.
Last Monday, Manila Water, which operates in the eastern half of Metro Manila, disclosed it has a P115-billion plan for the next 19 years . At the start of its concession in 1997, Manila Water said, it had to work with just one sewage treatment plant. It invested P33 billion in the last 21 years to increase the number of plants to 38 by the end of 2018.
There is still a long way to go, Manila Water said, as the 38 sewage treatment plans have a capacity of 310 million liters of wastewater a day. Full coverage will take time and so P115 billion will be invested in more plants until 2037, to be carried out in three phases By 2037, it said, it expects 99 percent coverage with a total of 53 treatment plants.
The other Metro Manila water concessionaire, Manila Water Services (Maynilad), covers the western part of Metro Manila along with some towns and cities in Cavite. It said it has already invested P23.3 billion to improve its wastewater infrastructure and is investing P11.4 billion this year.
When Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) completed the rehabilitation of Boracay after six months, he said the rehabilitation of Manila Bay may take seven years. Manila Bay is a hundred times bigger than Boracay’s waters and the pollution is not just from Metro Manila; it comes from all the towns and cities of the provinces around Manila Bay – Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Cavite.
However, it looks like it will take more than his original estimate of seven years. The garbage that various groups periodically collect on the bay’s shores along Roxas Blvd. is only a small part of the problem. The bigger part is the untreated sewage flowing out of hundreds of thousands of homes into streams in the area, into the Pasig River and several canals, and finally into Manila Bay.
In its announcement of its plans, Manila Water said it expects 99 percent coverage of its area by 2037. Maynilad, the other concessionaire, said it expects 100 percent coverage also by 2037. That is 18 years from now.
But we must welcome the fact that we are starting this year. Sometime in the years ahead, additional projects may be undertaken to speed up the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.