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It will take much more than 7 years



E CARTOON FEB 22, 2019The 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.

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