Metro Manila mayors back Manila Bay cleanup
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año have met with six Metro Manila mayors who backed plans to “restore the beauty and bounty” of Manila Bay.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair Danilo Lim said the two Cabinet officials attended a meeting of the Metro Manila Council on Thursday to discuss plans for the bay.
At the meeting, Mayors Edwin Olivarez of Parañaque, John Reynald Tiangco of Navotas, Rexlon Gatchalian of Valenzuela, Imelda Aguilar of Las Piñas, Robert Eusebio of Pasig and Miguel Ponce III of Pateros expressed support for the plans.
The mayors vowed to continue the cleanup of canals connected to the Pasig River and the bay, the first of three phases of a massive Manila Bay rehabilitation program.
Two other phases involved resettlement of illegal settlers around the bay and long-term implementation of the program.
Cimatu asked the mayors to support the Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s cease-and-desist orders on businesses violating environmental laws, since local executives can also suspend or cancel business permits.
Even the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has been given a notice of violation after inspections revealed it was discharging untreated wastewater into the bay.
But GSIS president and general manager Jesus Clint O. Aranas denied the charge and claimed an independent laboratory regularly tests the agency’s discharge.
Nonetheless, Aranas said the GSIS would “upgrade its sewage treatment plant into a more cost-effective and low-maintenance system to support the environment.”
Año said the government would continue inspections and warned that more establishments could be closed if they do not address their wastewater discharge problems.
Año said a separate dialogue with local government units would be held to discuss the relocation of around 220,000 illegal settler families around the bay that cause 80 percent of the pollution.
But fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the plan would benefit only property developers at the expense of fishermen and poor families.
Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chair, accused Cimatu and Año of colluding to hide the real objective, which was to turn parts of the bay into commercial and business hubs that would hurt the environment and livelihood of the poor. —With reports from Ben O. de Vera and Jaymee T. Gamil
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