Opinion

Battle for Manila Bay, Year One

Battle for Manila Bay, Year One

At the Baseco Compound in Manila, the water along the shore has become clean enough for the bottom to be visible. This is one of the indications that the so-called Battle for Manila Bay is being won, however slow the progress might be, a year after the cleanup was launched.

The improvement of the water at Baseco was cited by those behind the ambitious cleanup campaign as they assessed the progress of the Battle for Manila Bay. Baseco in Manila’s Port Area lies near the charcoal-making community called Ulingan in Tondo, which fiction writer Dan Brown described as the gate to hell in one of his popular novels.

Manila’s port communities are among the city’s poorest. Together with other informal settlers that make a living out of marginal fishing around Manila Bay, they contribute to the proliferation of solid waste and fecal coliform in the bay. But they are not the only sources of trash and other pollutants in the bay. Around Metro Manila, houses without sewer lines, industrial and commercial establishments also dump waste into the Pasig River and its tributaries, all of which end up in the bay.

A year after the bay cleanup was launched, local government units in Metro Manila are pointing to cleaner waterways in their jurisdictions. At the same time, more water treatment plants are now in operation. There are still many areas, however, that can use improvement in solid waste management, and where waterways and drainage systems remain clogged with garbage.

Cleaning up Manila Bay requires a holistic approach that involves the cooperation of everyone down to the community level. Those involved in the Manila Bay cleanup have lamented that after every typhoon, tons of garbage continue to wash up along the shores, indicating little change in public attitudes and habits on garbage disposal.

A year after the government launched a campaign to clean up what has been described as a “gigantic septic tank,” serious challenges persist. But the achievements offer hope that this battle can be won.

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