Carpio: Cleanliness of Manila Bay affects health, food security

MANILA, Philippines — Letting Manila Bay further deteriorate will seriously harm the health of residents in Metro Manila, retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio said as he urged the public to “clean up” the heavily-polluted body of water.

In an online forum Saturday, Carpio stressed that it is necessary to rehabilitate Manila Bay because the majority of the fish consumed by Metro Manila residents come from it and from fish ponds adjacent to the bay.

Manila Bay—which spans Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Metro Manila and Cavite—is a principal fishing ground for sardines, mackerel, mullet, threadfin, bream squid, blue crab, round scad and fusilier.

“Manila Bay is our fish pond, our garbage dump and our sewerage tank rolled into one. The residents of Metro Manila throw their human waste into Manila Bay. The fish eat on this human waste, the fishermen catch the fish and sell them to vendors and markets all over Metro Manila. The residents of Metro Manila buy the fish and eat them then the cycle starts all over again,” Carpio said.

“The fish that Metro Manila residents consumes from Manila Bay may become so laden with diseases that the next epidemic could come from fish taken from Manila Bay or the fish from Manila Bay may become toxic from chemicals that they could spawn various illnesses. The diseases and illnesses may even rival the destruction being inflicted now on residents of Metro Manila by the coronavirus,” he added.

The retired Supreme Court justice said there is a need for residents of the capital region to demand that their mayors ensure that waste is disposed in sanitary landfills and not in ravines or open dumpsites and to treat sewage before the wastewater is pumped in the bay.

The government began rehabilitation of Manila Bay in January 2019. The rehabilitation is still in the first phase or the cleanup and water quality monitoring phase.

The next two phases will involve the relocation of informal settlers and more rehabilitation works, and the protection and sustainment aspect of the project.

“We must educate people who live along esteros and all residents of Metro Manila that they’re poisoning themselves with their own garbage, their own sewage and with toxic chemicals from industrial plants,” Carpio said.

Reclamation projects

At the same forum, Carpio also warned of the effects of reclamation in Manila Bay, saying coastal development projects will adversely affect the habitat of endangered species and wetlands and will destroy a major source of fish catch for residents.

Reclamation projects will also make coastal areas susceptible to liquefaction during earthquakes and aggravate flooding in low-lying areas.

One of the biggest reclamation projects in Manila Bay is the proposed New Manila International Airport in Bulacan province, which will reclaim 2,500 hectares of fishing and mangrove areas.

In February 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not allow any private-sector initiated reclamation projects in Manila Bay due to potential environmental impacts. According to a BusinessWorld report, there were around 25 proposed projects to reclaim 30,000 hectares of Manila Bay from Navotas City to Cavite.

Fisher’s group Pamalakaya said on June 19 that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources granted the 320-hectare Bacoor and Reclamation and Development Project proposed by Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla an environmental compliance certificate. The group said the project will threaten to displace at least 700 fishing and urban poor communities.