Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Melvin Gas­con

No an­i­mals were blamed in the mak­ing of this re­port.

The gov­ern­ment-run Manila Zoo was cited as one of the top sources of pol­lu­tion in the river sys­tem that drains into Manila Bay, which the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion in­tends to clean up and re­ha­bil­i­tate start­ing this month at a cost of P47 bil­lion.

Lead­ing an in­spec­tion of the zoo on Fri­day, En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Roy Ci­matu con­firmed that the fa­cil­ity had been drain­ing un­treated sewage into one of the es­tu­ar­ies that lead to the bay.

Speak­ing to re­porters, he said the sec­tion of the es­tu­ary that cuts through the zoo com­pound “reg­is­tered the high­est co­l­iform level drain­ing into the bay” at 1.3 bil­lion for every 100 milliliters of wa­ter.

Ci­matu and other of­fi­cials ear­lier went to check the es­tero—of­fi­cially called Es­tero de San An­to­nio Abad—at its bay­side tip in Pasay City, as they mapped out prob­lem ar­eas for an in­ter­a­gency task force that is set to kick off a mas­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the bay.

Must have STP

Ac­cord­ing to Ci­matu, they have dis­cov­ered that the zoo—which is op­er­ated by the city gov­ern­ment of Manila—does not have its own sewage treat­ment fa­cil­ity and for years has been dis­charg­ing its waste­water di­rectly into the creek that flows into the bay.

“I have in­structed them (zoo of­fi­cials) to im­me­di­ately con­struct their [sewage treat­ment plant, or STP], and un­til they do so they will not be al­lowed to dis­charge any more waste­water into the creek,” he said.

As Ci­matu toured the zoo, the stench of waste­water filled the air and some vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing chil­dren, were seen cov­er­ing their noses.

The De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DENR) chief said the Manila city gov­ern­ment had ex­pressed will­ing­ness to pro­vide funds to help in the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the zoo, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of its own sewage treat­ment plant.

Stud­ies cited by the de­part­ment noted a high con­cen­tra- tion of fe­cal co­l­iform—con­sist­ing of hu­man and an­i­mal waste—in Es­tero de San An­to­nio Abad.

Of­fi­cially called the Manila Zoo­log­i­cal and Botan­i­cal Gar­den, the zoo has been in op­er­a­tion since July 1959. The coun­try’s old­est zoo oc­cu­pies 5.5 hectares in the heart of Manila and is cur­rently home to some 500 an­i­mals.

Dis­cus­sions for ren­o­vat­ing the zoo started in 2013 when the city gov­ern­ment en­ter­tained un­so­licited pro­pos­als from a group of Sin­ga­porean in­vestors and a lo­cal com­pany.

Pend­ing ren­o­va­tion plan

In 2015, the city gov­ern­ment signed a P1.5-bil­lion joint ven­ture agree­ment with Met­ro­pol­i­tan Zoo and Botan­i­cal Gar­den Inc. to un­der­take a to­tal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the zoo. The agree­ment is pend­ing in the city coun­cil for ap­proval.

Aside from Manila Zoo, other gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions in the vicin­ity of the es­tero in­clude Ospi­tal ng Maynila and Bangko Sen­tral ng Pilip­inas.

“We plan to drain the es­tero so we can find out which es­tab­lish­ments are drain­ing their waste here. We will also re­quire all es­tab­lish­ments near this area to have their own STPs,” Ci­matu said.

Not the only pol­luter

Part of the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion work is to re­quire Metro Manila wa­ter con­ces­sion­aires Mayni­lad and Manila Wa­ter to con­nect to the sewage lines, he said.

In re­sponse, Manila Zoo of­fi­cials said they were will­ing to sub­mit to Ci­matu’s di­rec­tive to con­struct an STP, but clar­i­fied that they were not the only source of pol­lu­tion in the es­tero.

“We were not aware that we were re­quired to [have a] sewage treat­ment plant, as we have only been dis­charg­ing waste­water; and the an­i­mal waste, we con­vert to fer­til­izer,” said lawyer Jasyrr Gar­cia, the act­ing zoo ad­min­is­tra­tor.

Also on Fri­day and in line with the Manila Bay re­hab, Ci­matu in­spected a com­mu­nity of in­for­mal set­tlers liv­ing along the river­bank at Barangay La Huerta, Parañaque City.


TOXIC FLOW En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Roy Ci­matu peers over the metal fence en­clos­ing the smelly, murky ditch con­nect­ing Manila Zoo and Manila Bay, which the en­vi­ron­ment de­part­ment plans to re­ha­bil­i­tate “a la Bo­ra­cay,” dur­ing Fri­day’s in­spec­tion.


WATEROF DEATH A DENR spe­cial­ist shows the high tox­i­c­ity level of wa­ter from a sewage in­side Manila Zoo that flows out to the nearby Manila Bay.

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