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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Feb 23, 2019

Manila Bay can be saved

In the United States, the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) mandates all states to adopt water quality standards that would define how much of pollutants can be in the water such that it might meet the minimum threshold for water, fishing and swimming, and other beneficial uses.

In Minnesota, once the water quality is assessed to be below the prescribed rate —they are automatically included in the Impaired Waters List being managed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which is defined as the “the maximum amount of a pollutant a body of water can receive without violating water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the pollutant’s sources” is then developed. The TMDL process commences via identification of all sources of pollutants and a scientific determination of how much each source must reduce its contribution in order to meet the standard.

It took almost two decades for Minnesota to clean up First Fulda, a lake in Murray County, which at one point could no longer be used for swimming and recreation.

Cleaning the Manila Bay, like the Poplar River, is an uphill battle but it can be done with the concerted action of government and the public sector. It is about time — considering that as early as 2008, the Supreme Court already issued a mandamus ordering the national government to clean up Manila Bay, put up adequate and appropriate sanitary landfill and solid waste and liquid disposal as well as other alternative garbage disposal systems.

As of February 14, according to Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, data-gathering activities relevant to bathymetric or depth measurement survey and water quality test for both Manila Bay and Navotas River have already been completed. The result will then be the basis of dredging activities, which will be the major mechanism for the removal of the accumulated pollutants. The bathymetric survey is necessary to estimate the amount of material to be removed and specify the areas that must be given focus during the clean-up.

Starting February, an equipment fleet composed of amphibious excavators, dumping scows, dump trucks, debris segregator, street sweepers, and vacuum sewer cleaner will be strategically deployed. 

DPWH will also procure additional spider excavators and trash skimmer to assist in the rehabilitation efforts.

As of date, three dredging sites have already been identified -- Navotas River and Estero de Vitas in Tondo, Manila; and the priority 100 meters from the shoreline of Manila Bay spanning approximately 1.5-kilometer from Manila Yacht Club breakwater to the US Embassy.

The cleaning of Manila Bay will not happen overnight. As the old saying goes — It takes more than one cold day for the river to freeze three feet deep. Rome was not built in a day.

The six-month closure of Boracay has proved that it can be done. From a coliform bacteria level as high as one million Most Probable Number (MPN) per 100 ml, water quality is now down to 19 to 20 MPN/100 ML, according to DENR. This just goes to prove that if you work hard enough at it, you can grind even an iron pestle down to a needle.

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