DOST Forum Helps Clear Manila Bay Rehabilitation

Guest writer:
By GERALDINE BULAON-DUCUSIN, DOST-Science and Technology Information Institute (STII) S&T Media Service
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         THE Department of Science and Technology (DOST) forum on “Our Collective Vision for Manila Bay: From Cleaning to Healing Across Ecosystems” has served as a venue to clarify issues involving the Manila Bay rehabilitation.
         Over a thousand viewers from the academe, government, and civic organizations listened to experts’ discussion on the legal, environmental, social, and even psychological issues.
         The situation in Manila Bay is rather complicated because it is situated in one of the most urban cities in the country where roughly 1.47 million live in poverty. Consequently, the discarded solid wastes that are not properly managed, presence of open dump sites, and low diversion rate somehow contributes to the problem in the bay.
         This present condition may lead to other adjunct problems that can include exposure to constant flooding; decreasing area as natural habitat; human settlements are in hazardous areas; and it’s not meeting the SB guidelines – meaning it is not suitable for propagation of shellfish or milkfish, eco-tourism, and other recreational activities.
         “Our main concern is the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, and in rehabilitation, we need to address the garbage problem and the water quality,” said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Jonas Leones.
       Under Administrative Order No. 16 issued in 2019, “Expediting the Rehabilitation and Restoration of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystem of the Manila Bay and Creating the Manila Bay Task Force,” the DENR and other concerned government entities are mandated to fast track the Manila Bay’s rehabilitation.
         However, even before the creation of the Task Force for the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program, there was already the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP) drafted in 2018, which became the basis for much of the activities of the ongoing rehabilitation program that covers three regions: National Capital Region, Region 3 and Region 4, and 187 local government units (LGUs).
         The recent Beach Nourishment initiative of the DENR is just one of the five geo-reengineering components of the said program. The other four are trashbooms (structures designed to catch and hold trash materials like debris, branches, leaves), silt curtains, dredging and desilting, and sewerage treatment plants.
         Leones further explained that beach nourishment is a coastal restoration and enhancement activity covering a particular area done to maintain the beach area nourished. The area that has been the subject of discussion recently because of dolomite comprises only up to 120 meters.
         “We have not done anything yet, nor changed the configuration of the area. We merely removed the filth and dirt, and made it safe and beautiful for the public,” Leones explained.
         The beach nourishment program merely relied on the beach nourishment models from other countries and limited the study under the existing conditions of the Manila Bay. There was no long-term impact assessment done.
         “If the current trend in the relative sea level continues, which is actually rising quite fast, then in the long run it would definitely affect the beach nourishment,” Karl Queaño, an assistant professor from Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) and member of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), pointed out. NRCP is under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
         Queaño also emphasized that in any development, there is an attendant impact. The important question is that — what is the acceptable level of risk for everyone?
         Given the many issues arising from the discussion, Leones informed the audience that the DENR policy is dynamic, and that they welcome comments from the other sectors to improve the policy.
         “Since beach nourishment has been an issue, perhaps in our policy change we can consider the beach nourishment to be one of the activities to have a full-blown TIA,” Leones assured the viewers. TIA refers to total impact assessment.
         At the end, the webinar-forum made more people understand the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program of the government, helped clarify some issues, and consider possible courses of action that can be taken for an effective and sustainable rehabilitation and preservation of Manila Bay.
         The virtual event was a collaborative activity of the DOST-NRCP, Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP), and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM). (✓)
          Featured image of Manila Bay with dolomite sand courtesy of and thanks to The Dive on Facebook.

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