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Out of 178 towns and cities within the Manila Bay watershed area, 95 have not been complying with environmental regulations, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

He warned the local officials in areas connected either to Manila Bay or its tributaries that they would face administrative charges if they fail to cooperate with the national government in its rehabilitation efforts.

Citing the results of the 2018 regional interagency committee assessments and on-site inspections, Año said that of the 95 cities and towns, 16 of them had the “worst problems.” However, he did not say what these problems were.


Breakdown by region

Of the 95, 56 were in Central Luzon; 37 in Calabarzon; and two in Metro Manila.

Año shared the compliance assessment results with local government officials concerned in a forum on the rehabilitation of Manila Bay held on Monday.

The assessment was aimed at evaluating their compliance with existing environmental laws and policies; identifying the necessary assistance they needed and demanding accountability from them.

“Based on our assessment, we still have a lot of work to do, and we intend to start with these 16 local government units (LGUs) as we go along assisting all of the 178. We will help them. We are not going to leave them on their own,” Año said in a statement on Thursday.

“There are a lot of lapses that contributed to the decades-old problem of Manila Bay,” he added.

“But we are not here to start pointing fingers. We, through the directive of the President, are here to bring back the bay to its former glory and we need all LGUs to do their part,” Año said.

But at the same time, he warned local officials who refuse to cooperate in the ongoing rehabilitation, saying: “We can also file cases against them with the Ombudsman or recommend disciplinary action to the President if warranted.”

Año’s challenge

Año added: “We challenge all LGUs to shape up. There is a need for them to fight and win the Battle for Manila Bay.”

The Department of the Interior and Local Government, he said, could extend assistance to LGUs, including providing capacity development and conducting workshops, coaching and mentoring, to ensure that they were fully capable of exercising their mandates.

Government officials had said that the cleanup of the 194,000-ha Manila Bay would not only involve cities in Metro Manila, but also eight provinces in two regions that have rivers and estuaries flowing into the bay.


Government goes after businesses polluting Manila Bay, waterways

On Tuesday, February 19, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) continued its crackdown on businesses found to have violated environmental laws in the cities of Manila and Pasay.

LLDA Environmental Regulatory Department Manager Emiterio Hernandez said five more cease and desist orders (CDOs), three ex-parte orders, and 12 notices of violation (NOVs) were handed out.

So far, the LLDA has issued 16 CDOs, 35 NOVs and 12 ex-parte orders – a total of 63 legal orders.

“Most of where we inspected to have had violations are restaurants, followed by hotels. Many restaurants in Pasay are supposedly connected to Maynilad because there are sewer lines there,” Hernandez said in a press conference.

“Unfortunately, you can see that not all the wastewater [outlets] are connected to the sewer lines. Already It is a violation of the Clean Water Act, and it directly leaks out to the Manila Bay. That’s why we have to issue orders,” he added.

But Hernandez made it clear that they don’t have the power to shut down business operations as that falls under the jurisdiction of local government units (LGUs).

“We are not closing the whole establishment. We will only close the sources of wastewater. The purpose is not to allow them to discharge wastewater,” he said.

“If we are to close their facilities then they have no choice but to…treat their water if they want to continue their operations.”


Ongoing crackdown

With the plans to rehabilitate Manila Bay, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been issuing NOVs and CDOs as well to businesses releasing untreated wastewater into Manila Bay.

The environment secretary Mr Roy Cimatu said that apart from shutting down establishments, they will also impose fines.

Hernandez said the LLDA’s legal orders are based on inspections, which are conducted on a daily basis.

“From next week or in two weeks, if we do find any [more] violations…we will be issuing [legal orders] again,” he added.

However, despite the daily inspections, Hernandez said it would be hard to even give a ballpark figure as to how many businesses are violating environmental laws.


Chance to comply

Hernandez said that businesses about to be issued with CDOs but are that are on track to fix their wastewater discharge might be given a 3-month-long temporary lifting order (TLO) as long as they follow through on their commitments.

One of these is to submit their proposed pollution control programs.

“They have to show us what they will do while they are undergoing rehab, how they have to comply to [avoid being issued a] CDO,” Hernandez said.

“Also, they have to appoint a pollution control officer and submit remedial measures, if they plan to [roll out] a sewage treatment plan or they plan to connect to sewer lines,” he added.

Erring establishments should also pay at least 25% of the daily penalties which will be computed by the LLDA. After 3 months, these businesses will be inspected again.

“If they do not comply…we will have to recommend the imposition of the CDO. If it is already in the process and it is just a matter of delay, they can apply for [another] extension,” Hernandez said.

So far, only three businesses have applied for a TLO, but only one, Gloria Maris, was able to comply and had its CDO lifted.


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