Before the white sand controversy, Manila Bay has undergone many changes last year as a way to rehabilitate what once was the capital’s glorious gateway. It had been stripped of its economical and historical significance when pollution deteriorated the bustling city and its waters.
In January 2019, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Manila local government unit jumpstarted the first phase of the restoration program, but more efforts from environmental volunteers, establishments, and the general public’s high hopes to clean up the esteros and walkways poured in.
The case of dolomite dumping, however, is an interference in the three-phase process for time-bound purposes. For one, it can be a psychological tactic to discourage littering, and it is believed to render its part in the mental health of the people amid the pandemic, but it is not a coastal strategy that targets multifaceted problems running across eight provinces and 1,997 kilometers of drainage area.
The rehabilitation program has a long way to go, much of it very complex. It will take years before we even get to phase three and sustainment, but where are we now exactly, and what has happened since then?
Jan. 12 – DENR ordered a strict enforcement of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 to address water quality issues and other environmental problems in the bay.
Jan. 27 – DENR Sec. Roy A. Cimatu officially declared the start of the Manila Rehabilitation at the Baywalk in Manila. About 10,000 individuals, mostly representing the 13 Mandamus agencies, local government units, and private sector, participated in the event.
Feb. 19 – President Rodrigo Duterte has created Manila Bay Task Force through Administrative Order 16 signed by Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea, to facilitate engineering and technological advancements and speed up operations.
March 5 – The bay went through desilting and dredging operations, especially at the mouth of major river systems in NCR. Plastic and silt were extracted along the US Embassy. There has also been a decrease in the amount of fecal coliform bacteria found in Manila Bay waters after a week.
June 20 – DENR releases warning of suspension of business permits and full closure against establishments that pollute Manila Bay.
Aug. 31 – Rehabilitation report stated that more than 3,810 tons of garbage, water hyacinth, and silt have been removed from the Manila Bay coastline and drainage system discharging to the bay since January. Collected were:
- 2,639 cubic meters / 749.72 tons of garbage from Manila Baywalk and other tributaries
- 2,594.34 cubic meters / 737.12 tons of garbage and water hyacinth removed from Baseco beach area, lagoon, and aplaya
- 3,174.5 cubic meters / 901.85 tons of water hyacinth/garbage from Pasig River and San Juan River area
- 5,005.5 cubic meters / 1,422.17 tons of silt from esteros and drainage laterals discharging to Manila Bay
Nov. 4 – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has relocated a total of 70,165 informal settler families from Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon as part of the rehabilitation program’s second phase.
Jan. 24 – DENR releases report that the coliform levels in the waters of Manila Bay have “drastically decreased.” The Manila Yacht Club outfall is now at 54 million mpn/100ml, compared to pre-rehabilitation record of 110 million mpn/100ml.
Aug. 28 – The government declares it will allocate P1 billion from its 2021 national budget for the resettlement of informal settlers affected by the rehabilitation program.
Sept. 3 – DENR started filling the bay walk on Roxas Boulevard with “white sand” or crushed dolomites.
Sept. 19 – Portion of the coastline was opened to public for the viewing of the new “white sand beach.”
Sept. 20 – The bay walk was closed to continue project operations.