Manila Bay rehab: Gov't probes return of structures near Manila estero

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) — The award-winning rehabilitation of Pasig River, a major tributary of Manila Bay, faces a setback as authorities found new structures near a supposedly "recovered" estuary connected to it.

The Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) in a statement on Thursday said it is investigating how informal settlements were again constructed around Estero de Magdalena in Manila. The PPRC considers it a priority waterway given the "alarming" volume of waste and the polluted wastewater it drains to the Pasig River, then to Manila Bay.

The PPRC in October 2018 won an international award for successfully reviving the Pasig River, declared biologically dead in the '90s due to persistent pollution. Efforts included the relocation of informal settlers around Estero de Magdalena, only to find out this January that there are "huge volumes of wastes again and new structures allegedly constructed by the (informal settler families) on the easements."

"With this, PRRC Executive Director Jose Antonio E. Goitia ordered for an immediate investigation to track down the persons allegedly accountable for allowing the construction of the informal settlements at Estero de Magdalena," the PPRC said in its statement. It said cleaning up this estuary "will significantly contribute" to the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, a new government priority after Boracay Island, which was shut to tourists for six months last year.

Goitia also reminded barangay officials to strictly implement solid waste management, warning them of possible sanctions for neglect of duty.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, in a separate statement called for coordinated efforts to clean up the bacteria-infested Manila Bay.

"All of these efforts for the cleanup are integrated. We plan to clean the Manila Bay including all the esteros and rivers connected-the Pasig River and the Laguna Lake," Cimatu said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to unveil on January 27 the P47-billion Manila Bay rehabilitation plan and name establishments initially found to be non-compliant with environmental laws. It said it may fine and close down at least 50 establishments for polluting the bay. President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to shut down hotels near the bay if they fail to install proper water treatment systems.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government, meanwhile, expects to relocate over 200,000 families around Manila Bay as officials said both commercial and residential establishments have polluted the bay.