An intensified solid waste management program, stricter monitoring of polluting industries, and reforestation of watershed and mangrove areas are necessary to ensure the success of the efforts to rehabilitate the heavily polluted Manila Bay.

This was according to the results of the vulnerability assessment for the Manila Bay rehabilitation project commissioned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the study was able to identify some areas where the government and other stakeholders could work on insofar as the rehabilitation effort is concerned.

Cimatu said the study, which was conducted by the DENR’s Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), will help stakeholders to “address the gargantuan task at hand more efficiently and effectively.”

“We at the DENR believe that by investing in studies such as this, we would be able to find better solutions in solving not only the problem in Manila Bay, but also other issues within our mandate,” Cimatu said.

ERDB supervising science research specialist Jose Isidro Michael Padin presented the results of the Manila Bay Vulnerability Assessment during the bureau’s first-ever Annual Technical Seminar held last June 17.

Speaking on behalf of project team leader Dr. Carmelita Villamor, Padin suggested the establishment of more materials recovery facilities (MRFs) in three regions covering Manila Bay for proper management of solid waste.

Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 states that MRFs shall be designed to receive, sort, process and store compostable and recyclable material efficiently and in an environmentally sound manner.

“Government agencies must uphold stricter implementation of solid waste management programs not just in the coastal areas of the bay, but for the entire Manila Bay watershed as there is little or no active public participation in source reduction and segregation activities among local government units,” Padin pointed out.

He said that industries and commercial establishments must be monitored regularly for their compliance to existing laws on the release of effluent waste.

At the same time, Padin underscored the need to focus on the remaining ecosystems, particularly on the western edge of the bay, through reforestation.

“Reforestation of abandoned fishponds and sparsely vegetated mangrove forest can be done, alongside proper maintenance and protection of remaining mangrove stands,” he pointed out.

“Reforestation alongside infrastructure development for disaster risk reduction and management is needed to protect the climate vulnerable communities from flooding and storm surges,” he added.

It was also the ERDB, the DENR’s research arm, which discovered that many of the coral ecosystems in the Manila Bay region are still thriving despite environmental and human pressures.

Coral cover is found in Maragondon and Ternate in Cavite province, and in the islands of Corregidor and Caballo.

Cimatu said the discovery of live coral cover within the waters of Manila Bay buoyed hopes that the polluted water body could still be restored to its pristine condition.

It is giving the government and other stakeholders more reason to proceed with the rehabilitation, he added. ###