By Minka Klaudia Tiangco
Several legal organizations led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) Legal Affairs offered free legal counseling to residents who participated in Saturday’s clean-up drive at Barangay Sipac Almacen in Navotas City.
Lawyer Norlito Eneran, chief of the DENR Legal Affairs, said each participant was given a coupon for every sack of garbage he or she collected. This entitles the person to free legal advice.
The activity, dubbed “Payo pang legal ang alay ko pag basura mo linisin mo,” yielded over 600 sacks of trash from Manila Bay.
Other legal organizations that took part include the DENR Lawyers Guild, Incorporated; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Malabon-Navotas Chapter; and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) of Quezon City.
The clean-up drive at Barangay Sipac Almacen was carried out after DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu told the Navotas City government to rehabilitate Bangkulasi River, which was identified as one of the filthy waterways draining into the Manila Bay.
Cimatu gave the local government and the DENR until the end of the year to reduce the levels of fecal coliform, or bacteria from human and animal feces, in the bay.
DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said they will be working on the improvement of the area and the sanctioning of errant commercial establishments that dump waste in the river before tending to Bangkulasi River’s water quality.
The DENR official said the Navotas City government must prioritize relocating informal settlers who live near the waterways to reduce pollution in the river.
Meanwhile, the local government was tasked with clearing the river of obstructions, which include local fishermen’s parked sea vessels.
“Hindi na natin sila papayagan na gawin nilang berthing area nila ‘yung buong ilog (We will no longer allow the fishermen to use the whole river as their berthing area),” Antiporda said.
“These damaged boats or boats with informal settlers, we will take them off the river. If they will not take it off, we will be forced to take it off. If that happens, charges will be filed, charges of penalties because, of course, they have to pay the ones who removed the sea vessels,” he added.
Navotas City Mayor Tobias “Toby” Tiangco said he is now looking for a place at the Navotas Fish Port to transfer the 22 municipal fishing boats and 24 commercial fishing boats from the Bangkulasi River.
Antiporda said the DENR has also submitted to the mayor’s office a list of five to 10 establishments up for cease-and-desist orders and the suspension of their mayor’s permit due to lack of proper sewerage treatment plants.
“We don’t want to ruin the economy of Navotas. What we want is to send a strong message telling all the business establishments here to shape up,” he said.
Tiangco said they will readily cooperate with the DENR with regards to penalizing violators.
“We are committed to that,” the city mayor said. “We will definitely close the establishments and suspend the permits.”