Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said he was overwhelmed by the turnout for the simultaneous cleanup of Manila Bay tributaries last Sunday as thousands took part in the event which was part of the massive efforts to rehabilitate the heavily polluted bay.

“We have been overwhelmed with the support we received from the public for the cleanup of Manila Bay tributaries. Indeed, nothing is impossible if we all work together,” Cimatu said, noting that public participation is crucial to the success of the rehabilitation dubbed as “Battle for Manila Bay.”

Based on the initial report of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Operations Center set up by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), around 16,000 people from 181 barangays in Metro Manila participated in the simultaneous cleanup activities along esteros and rivers that drain into the Manila Bay.

The report added that more than 70 tons of solid waste were collected from the esteros and rivers during the cleanup.

“Volunteerism is the most important part of the Battle for Manila Bay,” Cimatu said, noting that the tributaries account for the bulk of pollution load to the bay.

During his visit to the cleanup sites, Cimatu noted that improper disposal of solid waste was the major concern during the cleanup.

Under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, local government units are primarily responsible for waste segregation and disposal.

Cimatu, however, said the DENR—through its recently created four field offices in the National Capital Region—will assist Metro Manila localities in implementing RA 9003 to address the problem of solid waste in their waterways.

The cleanup activities were held in 21 impact sites, or those which are heavily polluted, in the river systems of Pasig, Marikina, San Juan, Parañaque, Pateros, Taguig Malabon-Navotas, Tullahan-Tinajeros and Las Piñas- Zapote.

Cimatu made the rounds of the cleanup sites to personally thank the volunteers for their support and inspect the status of the waterways. He was joined by DENR officials, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Danilo Lim.

During his visit in Parañaque, Cimatu was overwhelmed by the mounds of solid waste that practically covered Tripa de Galina and the illegal settler families (ISF) who were living right beside the compacted garbage.

The DENR chief assured them they will be relocated to a better place, and called on all barangay residents to help in the cleanup.

In Manila, Cimatu cited the barangay captain who was hurt while overseeing the cleanup of Estero de Magdalena and extolled him for his dedication and support to the rehabilitation efforts.

In Quezon City, he delivered a message to the volunteers in the cleanup of San Juan River which traverses Barangay Doña Imelda.

“Nandito kami ngayon para ipakita gaano kaimportante sa gobyerno ang laban na ito,” Cimatu told volunteers in Quezon City.

Cimatu also visited Navotas River where he saw a huge number of ISFs residing beside the river. He said ISFs were also contributors to the pollution of esteros. Phase 2 of the Manila Bay rehabilitation includes the relocation of these ISFs.

In Caloocan City, Cimatu lauded the officials of barangays along the Tullahan-Tinajeros River System who signed with the DENR a commitment dubbed as “KasunduansaPaglilinis ng Tullahan-Tinajeros River System” for the rehabilitation of the river system which has a current coliform level of 92M mpn (most probable number)/100ml.

Cimatu underscored the need to restore Tullahan River to its original width and depth to prevent flooding in some parts of Quezon City. “Tullahan River is a challenge but we will be able to solve it,” he assured.

The former military chief also visited the portion of the Tumana Creek in Barangay Tumana in Marikina City that drains to Marikina River. ###