Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu is counting on barangay leaders to do their share in the Manila Bay rehabilitation by cleaning up the esteros, rivers and tributaries that flow into the heavily polluted bay.

“It is the barangay captains who can solve the problem of Manila Bay,” Cimatu said during the recent meeting with executives of barangays within river systems that drain into Manila Bay.

“The cleanup of the bay rests on them. That is how much I trust them,” Cimatu added.

Leaders of more than 200 barangays surrounding the river systems of Pasig-Marikina-San Juan, Muntinlupa-Parañaque-Las Piñas-Zapote, and Malabon-Tullahan-Tinajeros were present during the dialogue held at Bayview Park Hotel in Manila recently.

Aside from Cimatu, the meeting was also attended by other officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

During the dialogue, Cimatu reminded the barangay officials of their duty to enforce environmental laws, particularly the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

“It is the responsibility of the local government units and the barangay captains to implement the environmental laws correctly,” the former Armed Forces chief said.

Cimatu also offered assistance to the barangay officials in fulfilling their mandates, including the relocation of illegal settlers along esteros and rivers.

He told the officials of the need to coordinate with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development in ensuring the relocation of affected informal settler families (ISFs) before their houses are demolished.

“We will give them a chance to self-demolish or move to an appropriate relocation site,” Cimatu said.

There are some 230,000 ISFs in the Manila Bay region, around 56,000 of them live along its coast.

Cimatu urged barangay leaders to exercise political will in guarding against ISFs who would return to riverbanks and esteros despite being given relocation. “If they file a complaint against you, isamaninyoako,” he said.

The DENR chief also enjoined them to take part in the simultaneous cleanup of esteros and rivers around Manila Bay scheduled on March 31. “Once and for all, we will clear the waterways of garbage,” Cimatu said.

He added: “If barangay captains can harness the power of the people to do it, then there will be a show of force to cleanup. Cleaning Manila Bay will be your most important mission as barangay captains.” ###