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Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu on Tuesday rallied all stakeholders to work together and be part of history by fully supporting renewed efforts to rehabilitate the heavily polluted Manila Bay.

“I wish you join us in making history in our country,” Cimatu told some 200 representatives of the 12 other mandamus agencies and other government agencies, local government units and the civil society during the stakeholders’ meeting hosted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) at its central office in Quezon City.

Cimatu led the meeting, along with Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.

Cimatu said the task of bringing back the historic bay to its former glory would not be totally impossible if all stakeholders will take part in the undertaking.

“This mission is not impossible. This mission calls for dedication and hardwork from all those who will help us in this operation,” Cimatu said.

The DENR secretary said the Manila Bay rehabilitation will be a “all hands on deck” effort among several government agencies led by the DENR.

He vowed that DENR personnel will be “at the front row” to achieve the goal of making the coastal waters of Manila Bay fit for swimming again.

Although Manila Bay is still known for having one of the most beautiful sunsets, its waters are considered the most polluted in the country due to domestic sewage, toxic industrial effluents from factories and shipping operations, and leachate from garbage dumps, among others.

Cimatu said the waters along the Roxas Boulevard, which has the best view of the sunset, is even “worse than Boracay.”

The former Armed Forces chief said the government is prepared to show political will to enforce the 2008 Supreme Court mandamus to cleanup Manila Bay and its tributaries.

The government is all set to kick off the Manila Bay rehabilitation on January 27.

Prior to this, Cimatu conducted an ocular inspection of Estero de San Antonio Abad and the Manila Zoo, which was found directly discharging untreated wastewater to waterway leading to the bay.

The DENR has also started identifying establishments that are non-compliant to environmental laws, particularly the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

“We expect these establishments to comply. Otherwise, we will do something to them that will bring the message to the Filipino people that this operation is an operation of political will,” Cimatu warned.

He added: “I assure that it will happen. We will not only clean it, we will be able to do something better for our countrymen and for the next generation.”

Cimatu said he considers the Manila Bay rehabilitation as the “biggest challenge in my life.”

Malacañang has approved a budget amounting to P42.95 billion for three years. This amount will cover cleanup of priority waterways, relocation of informal settler families (ISFs), and implementation of temporary sanitation facilities in ISF communities prior to relocation.

Joining Cimatu in the mission is Año, who was also personally handpicked by President Rodrigo Duterte to undertake the rehabilitation. #

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