The Manila Bay rehabilitation is heading in the right direction more than a month since its launch, according to Secretary Roy A. Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“I can proudly say, we are on the right track,” Cimatu declared when he presided last Wednesday’s meeting of Task Force Manila Bay at the headquarters of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau in Quezon City.

It was the first meeting of the DENR-led inter-agency body after President Rodrigo RoaDuterte issued last month Administrative Order No. 16, expediting the rehabilitation and restoration of the Manila Bay’s coastal and marine ecosystems and creating the task force.

According to Cimatu, the signing of the administrative order “signifies the full trust and confidence of our President that the rehabilitation of Manila Bay is a doable and achievable mission.”

Prior to the administrative order, the DENR launched on January 27 the three-phase rehabilitation project dubbed as “Battle for Manila Bay” where over 10,000 people joined a massive cleanup activity in various parts of the Manila Bay region.

Cimatu said the unprecedented cleanup activity was made possible by the overwhelming support from local government units, private sector, academe and non-government organizations.

“We were more than 10,000 at that time, all with hearts and minds set to rehabilitate and restore Manila Bay to its former glory,” he said.

Barely six weeks since the launch, Cimatu reported that the DENR and its attached agency, the Laguna Lake Development Authority, have already issued a total of 263 Notices of Violation and 119 Cease and Desist Orders to establishments in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and the Calabarzon that have violated the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 and other environmental laws.

Cimatu said the rehabilitation efforts got a major boost after San Miguel Corp., through its president Ramon Ang, signed a memorandum of agreement with the DENR for the massive cleanup of the Tullahan-Tinajeros River System, which is among the dirtiest river systems in Metro Manila that empties to the bay.

“Mr. Ang generously pledged P1 billion for this project which will positively impact the rehabilitation of Manila Bay,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu said other companies have also expressed their willingness to join the efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay and its tributaries, among them the SM Group for the Parañaque River and Megaworld Corp. for Marikina River.

Addressing the heads and representatives of various agencies involved in the rehabilitation, Cimatu said: “Let us put our minds together, roll up our sleeves, and more importantly, commit ourselves for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay for the present and the future generations.”

He added: “My fellow workers in government, Administrative Order No. 16 has laid down our tasks. We have all been hand-picked to do this job. Let us be brave and courageous enough to accept this colossal challenge of rehabilitating Manila Bay.”

The former military chief said the Manila Bay rehabilitation was not just an environmental issue, but also social and economic issue “as we remove and move people, and weed out industries and structures that violate the law and hinder our work for Manila Bay.”

The rehabilitation will be done in three phases, namely: cleanup and improvement of water quality; rehabilitation; and protection and sustainment. ###