Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu believes some form of culture change is needed if the pollution-challenged Manila Bay is to be restored and preserved for the long-term.

“If they ask me what is the most difficult part in rehabilitating Manila Bay, I would say it is to change our people’s behavior and attitude,” Cimatu said on Monday (Feb. 4, 2019) during the regular flag ceremony at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Quezon City.

Cimatu, however, said the seeming enthusiasm and willingness of a lot of people to take part in the effort to rehabilitate Manila Bay shows that there is still hope for such change.

Last January 27, over 5,000 people joined a massive cleanup activity along Roxas Boulevard in Manila to mark the launch of the three-phase Manila Bay rehabilitation program, which enjoys the full backing of the Duterte administration.

President Duterte has allocated more than P42 billion for the implementation of the project within three years and at least 13 government agencies will be working together to carry out the mission dubbed as “Battle for Manila Bay.”

According to Cimatu, around P6 billion or roughly 14 percent of the allocation will be used for cleanup activities, including information and education campaign on the importance of keeping Manila Bay clean.

The remaining P36 billion will be spent for relocation and provision of support systems like access to jobs and livelihoods and construction of town centers with recreational areas, markets, church, schools and hospitals.

“Andyan na tayo sa difficult level, which is the cleanup. The more difficult part is the relocation of over 220,000 households. But the most difficult is to maintain and sustain its clean condition for the next generation,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu said the immediate goal is to reduce the coliform levels in the bay and its connecting estuaries and creeks.

Fecal coliform level in Manila Bay, prior to the launching of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation, was recorded at 330 million MPN (most probable number) per 100 milliliters. The acceptable level for Class SB water is 100MPN/100 ml.

“There are about 47 esteros leading to Manila Bay and we will be cleaning all these esteros one at a time or simultaneously,” Cimatu said.

The former Armed Forces chief said the “ground zero” or the concentration of the rehabilitation efforts will be along the stretch of the bay area from the Manila Yacht Club to the United States Embassy, where all solid and water pollutants converge and the fecal coliform count is highest. ###