Private sector’s role in Manila Bay cleanup

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    GOVERNMENT officials are fond of saying that an important project cannot see the light of day without the full cooperation and participation of the citizens, particularly the private sector.

    For sure, there are important things that cannot be taken for granted and left only to officials to manage. And this cannot be truer than in the cleanup of Manila Bay, a gargantuan undertaking that needs the action and sacrifice of many stakeholders.

    Exactly one year ago this month, President Duterte instructed DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to clean up Manila Bay and improve the quality of its waters–obviously a close to impossible assignment. To hasten the completion of this task, Cimatu drafted and implemented the Manila Bay Action Plan, a well-funded program to bring down coliform and fecal contamination in the bay and make it safe for water sports activities.

    The role of the national government and LGUs had been cited in this effort. It is now time to look at the role of the private sector.

    Most proximate to the bay is of course the Manila Yacht Club, and for years it has implemented measures to mitigate the pollution in Manila Bay. Commodore Robert Lim Joseph Jr. of the Yacht Club has been in close partnership with Cimatu in effecting environmental reforms in the bay.

    To recall, Commodore Joseph and Atty. Tony Oposa Jr. had supported the legal fight in the Supreme Court that resulted in the mandamus for several agencies and institutions to clean up Manila Bay. Joseph noted that from 1999 when the SC intervened up to 2008 nothing really moved in the way of compliance to the High Tribunal’s order, until President Duterte and Cimatu came along.

    Now the DPWH is constructing sewage treatment plants for Metro Manila’s waste water which used to be dumped directly onto the bay. Bobby Joseph noted that this has been an environmental anomaly started by then Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas in the 1960s, when all the waste of Manila Zoo were thrown in the bay untreated.

    The practice could have been reduced had the two water concessionaries — Maynilad and Manila Water — were decent enough to make good on their promise to establish sewerage treatment plants, Joseph said, stressing that President Duterte is correct in going after the greedy service providers who do not give the promised service.

    On Joseph’s example, boat owners in the club are happy to support Cimatu’s efforts, even lending their boats to officials conducting surveys and studies on environmental impact on the bay.

    With Joseph as the incoming president of the old and prestigious Rotary Club of Manila, the government and the public can expect that not only the yacht club but also the RCM will be active in environmental endeavors — from water, and this time, also about trees.

    We salute the efforts of the private-sector leaders in these undertakings for the environment and may their tribe increase.