DENR breathes down Manila Bay polluter's neck

Published April 29, 2021, 7:47 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is going after the owner of a vessel that had been pinpointed as the source of the untreated wastewater that was dumped in Manila Bay over the weekend.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu (Screengrab from Zoom meeting)
A notice of violation will be slapped against the owner of MV Sarangani, a statement from the DENR said Thursday, April 29.

It was only last Monday, April 26, when DENR Sec. Roy A. Cimatu visited the priority area of the Manila Bay rehabilitation and discussed the incident with representatives of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the local government of Manila, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), Manila Bay Coordinating Office, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

“After the investigation, if the shipowner is found liable, the DENR will impose fines. Additionally, the owner has to rehabilitate the vessel to avoid destruction to the environment, and the pollution of our waters,” said Cimatu.

“We hope to get to the bottom of this issue during the investigation,” he stressed.

The samples taken from the actual discharge area showed an effluent fecal coliform count of 1,700 most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100 mL) based on the report of EMB, DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones said.

The EMB also reported that the ambient fecal coliform was rather high at 2,400 MPN/100 mL, as against the standard 100 MPN/100 mL. Meanwhile, the oil and grease traced to the vessel were at 19 milligrams per liter (mg/L), way in excess of the standard of 5 mg/L.

“We found out that the wastewater from the vessel is above the standard of the DENR. On this basis, we can now issue a notice of violation to the owner. A technical conference will be called to hear their side,” Leones explained.

“After this requirement of the due process, the EMB and the Coast Guard will be filing a case against the shipowner before the Manila Bay Task Force (MBTF),” he added.

Leones said the MBTF will convene and discuss the violations of the shipowner and the penalties to be imposed.

“After we have completed the process, the MBTF will convene and they will be adjudicating the violations of the shipowner, and hopefully they will be coming up with the appropriate sanctions, penalties, and imposition of fines against the shipowner,” he said.

Leones said the shipowner could be charged for the alleged violation of Republic Act (RA) 9275, also known as the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004; the Marine Pollution Decree of 1976; Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998; and other regulations of the PPA.