By Genalyn Kabiling
The government is committed to relocate informal settlers as well as shut down establishments that pollute the Manila Bay and other waterways, President Duterte declared Monday.
Delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President said the government has launched the rehabilitation of Manila Bay and expects the concerned stakeholders to comply with this program.
“On January 27, 2019, we officially started the Manila Bay rehabilitation. Though we have a long way to go, we are encouraged by the test results of the waters near Padre Faura,” he said in his speech.
“We will relocate informal settlers — I hope it can happen during my time — along the waterways and shut down establishments that continue to pollute and poison our waters,” he added.
The President said he would not hesitate to dismantle and burn down these establishments continuing to pollution of the historic bay.
“Make a choice. I’m going to the… [Malaki ba ‘yung building diyan?] I’m going to dismantle your burning — ah building or just simply burn it down so that we can have a new set-up of environmentally friendly, whatever that means,” he said.
In the same speech, Duterte has directed local government units to enforce the country’s environmental laws.
“There are those who violate environmental rules. I am giving due notice to the LGUs and other stakeholders, kayo po, of tourist destinations to take extra steps in the enforcement of our laws and the protection of our environment,” he said.
He noted that the government cleaned and rehabilitated Boracay Island and allowed it to “heal naturally” after a six-month closure to prevent its deterioration.
He said he was proud to announce that Boracay has been restored close to its original pristine state. He praised the Boracay inter-agency task force that includes Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Interior and Local Government Eduardo Año, and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat for implementing the Boracay rehabilitation effort.
“Boracay Island is just the beginning. And the girls there, the foreigners are waiting for you gentlemen to visit the place. They are all on the beach sunbathing. You are invited to — I have not been there,” he said.
He also cited that he pursued the land reform program in Boracay following its cleanup. He said he distributed the lands to natives of the island to help improve their plight.
In April 2018, the government shut down Boracay to tourists for six months to pave the way for massive rehabilitation, including upgrading its sewage system. The temporary closure was ordered by the President who claimed the island has become a cesspool.
Boracay was eventually reopened to tourists with clear waters last October.