Manila Bulletin

SC awaits re­port on Manila Bay pol­lu­tion

- Justice · Law · Manila · Mario López · Santos · Rosario · Pasig City · Metro Manila · Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Chief Jus­tice Dios­dado Per­alta led a group that in­spected the dolomite sand beach in Manila Bay last Wed­nes­day, along with As­so­ciate Jus­tices Rodil Zalameda, Mario Lopez, Edardo de­los San­tos, and Ri­cardo Rosario. There had been charges that the dolomite beach posed a dan­ger to pub­lic health. There were also re­ports that the re­cent heavy rains were wash­ing the white bits of dolomite out into the bay. But that was not why the Supreme Court group was there.

They were there be­cause in 2008, the Supreme Court is­sued a de­ci­sion call­ing for the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of Manila Bay in a case filed by the Con­cerned Res­i­dents of Manila Bay. Af­ter a year of hear­ings, the Supreme Court di­rected 13 gov­ern­ment agen­cies led by the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources to clean up the bay. They were given 10 years to do it.

Chief Jus­tice Per­alta is the only re­main­ing mem­ber of the Supreme Court that is­sued that 2008 de­ci­sion, the oth­ers hav­ing re­tired in the last 18 years. Un­der SC rules, he said, who­ever is still with the court, who had par­tic­i­pated in the 2008 de­ci­sion, be­comes the per­son in charge of the case. “I am now in charge of the case,” the chief jus­tice said. That ex­plains why the group that went to visit the dolomite beach last Wed­nes­day was led by the chief jus­tice him­self.

Prior to the in­spec­tion, Chief Jus­tice Per­alta and DENR Sec­re­tary Roy Ci­matu led a meet­ing at a nearby ho­tel where the DENR re­ported on the ac­tiv­i­ties un­der­taken by var­i­ous agen­cies to clean up Manila Bay, in­clud­ing the re­moval of garbage and wastes from the river sys­tems flow­ing into the Pasig River, then to Manila Bay.

Af­ter the beach in­spec­tion, Chief Jus­tice Per­alta said he was in­formed by an en­gi­neer that the fe­cal co­l­iform level in Manila Bay was down to 49 MPN (most prob­a­ble num­ber) per 100 mil­lime­ters, lower than the re­quired 100 to 200 MPN.

In his ini­tial re­port af­ter get­ting Pres­i­dent Duterte’s or­der to clean up the bay, Sec­re­tary Ci­matu said the co­l­iform lev­els had reached as high as 330 MPN, which was why swim­ming was for­bid­den in the bay. Eight wa­ter qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions were set up along the shore of Metro Manila and as of Jan­uary 28, Ci­matu said, bac­te­rial lev­els at the Ra­jah Soli­man out­fall, one of the eight mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions, had im­proved to 35 MPN. This would be in line with the 49 MPN re­ported by an en­gi­neer to Chief Jus­tice Per­alta.

All this must now be pre­sented for­mally to the court. There is need for an of­fi­cial re­port on the pol­lu­tion lev­els in MPN fig­ures.

The pub­lic wants to know if it is now safe to go swim­ming in Manila Bay. The last time the Depart­ment of Health is­sued a state­ment on the mat­ter, it ad­vised the pub­lic against wa­ter-borne gas­troin­testi­nal dis­eases such as di­ar­rhea, cholera, ty­phoid, dysen­tery, and skin dis­eases that may be ac­quired from pol­luted bod­ies of wa­ter. Un­til its waters are de­clared safe for recre­ational swim­ming, it is best to avoid tak­ing a dip in the bay.

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