By Ellson Quismorio
The chairman of the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources told the Manila Bay Task Force to rid the Manila Bay coast of illegal structures built by informal settlers, or else it will never complete its objective of cleaning it.
This, after Cavite 4th district Rep. Elpidio Barzaga learned during a public hearing held by his panel Monday that the informal settlers mostly contribute to the pollution in Manila Bay.
“The big part of the problem lies with the NHA (National Housing Authority). We cannot clean the Bay unless we remove the illegal settlers,” Barzaga told representatives of the task force that attended the hearing-slash-briefing.
“We will monitor your activities. Our main concern here is the ordinary people and the environment. It’s as simple as that,” said the returning congressman and former Dasmariñas City mayor.
The task force, which also includes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Department of Tourism (DOT), was created last February via Administrative Order (AO) No.16.
The Palace directive calls for faster rehabilitation and restoration of the coastal and marine ecosystem of the Manila Bay, which is known for its breathtaking sunset.
80 percent of pollution
“We have discovered that 80 percent of the pollution in Manila Bay comes from informal-settler families,” DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing told the Environment and Natural Resources panel during Monday’s proceedings, wherein Barzaga asked for a status update.
Attending resource persons from the DOH and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) affirmed the task force’s findings, noting that huge volumes of garbage, fecal and sewage waste have worsened pollution in the Manila Bay as per their laboratory findings.
“Based on our laboratory analysis, the level of salt oxygen is very low while the ammonia levels are very high,” the BFAR representative told Barzaga, who conducted an ocular inspection in the area beforehand.
Barzaga said local residents told him that the growth of fish there has been stunted.
The DOH informed the committee that they have already put in place sewerage “dislodgers” and installed toilet facilities around the area.
The Manila Bay Task Force has a supplemental budget of P2.1 billion, which it can utilize until June 2020. Another P1.4 billion has been allocated for the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Plan for fiscal year 2020.
“We have to know your expenses and accomplishments on a quarterly basis. You have to submit quarterly reports because we are reverting back to the cash-based budgeting system,” Barzaga told the agency officials.
The NHA has been allotted a total of P8.6 billion for relocation purposes this year, P6.1 billion of which has already been released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)
The panel hearing was initiated by Barzaga’s House Resolution (HR) No.247, which called for an inquiry on the continued degradation of the Roxas Boulevard, which runs along the shores of Manila Bay.