Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu welcomed the creation of the inter-agency Manila Bay Task Force, saying it would harmonize and speed up government efforts to rehabilitate pollution-challenged water body.

The task force was created under Administrative Order 16 issued by President Rodrigo RoaDuterte, through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, to ensure the “complete rehabilitation, restoration and conservation of the Manila Bay.”

The President designated Cimatu as the task force chair, while Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat as vice chairs. The triumvirate was also behind the successful rehabilitation of Boracay last year.

“We are grateful to President Duterte for prioritizing the Manila Bay rehabilitation,” Cimatu said. “This order will fast track all the work we are doing, delineate responsibilities and coordinate activities of all government agencies involved in the rehabilitation efforts.”

Other members of the task force are the heads of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Agriculture, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Ports Authority.

Also part of the task force are representatives of two water concessionaires in Metro Manila and nearby provinces—Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services Inc.

“The herculean task to rehabilitate Manila Bay, seen by some as impossible is now even more possible because it has been matched with an equally massive support from all government agencies and the private sector,” Cimatu said.

Specifically, the DENR was tasked to strictly enforce Sections 16 and 19 of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 on the conduct of containment, removal, and clean-up operations, and the exercise or supervision and control on all aspects of water quality management in the Manila Bay Region (MBR).

It is tasked to monitor compliance with critical environmental laws, rules and regulations and issue Notices of Violation, Cease and Desist Orders, and appropriate sanctions to violators including the filing of administrative or other cases against erring government officials.

The DENR also needs to collaborate with the MWSS, LWUA and DILG to ensure that large-scale enterprises such factories, manufacturing plants and condominium units install wastewater treatment plants or connect to central wastewater treatment facilities pursuant to Sec. 8 of RA 9275 and Sec. 28 of PD 198 or the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973.

It would also assist in the demolition, resettlement of informal settler families and in the prohibition against new illegal structures along esteros, riverbanks, shorelines and waterways in the MBR in accordance with RA 7879 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.

The DENR is also assigned to inspect all sanitary landfills located in the NCR, Regions III and IV-A which affect Manila Bay, ensure that these comply with RA 9003, and impose sanctions for violations.

“The rehabilitation of Manila Bay has been underway since the President ordered its clean-up early this year,” said Cimatu, adding that the DENR is thankful for the support coming from all sectors of society. “With this Order, we are now going full blast,” Cimatu said.

Among its other mandates, the task force is ordered to enforce environmental laws, specifically RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. It shall ensure that concerned agencies and LGUs undertake appropriate measures relative to violation of environmental laws such as demolition, closure or cessation of business, and/or filing of administrative action against erring persons and establishments.

Likewise, it shall require public and private establishments and households to connect to existing sewerage systems or sewerage treatment plants or their own in accordance with the Presidential Decree 856 or the Code on Sanitation.

The Manila Bay Region has a coastline of 190 kilometers and covers Central Luzon, CALABARZON (Regions III and IV-A) and the National Capital Region. It consists of 178 local government units and 17 major river systems. ###