Let the accountable clean the bay

Next Saturday, my high school daughter will join a week-end school activity where the student volunteers will do a clean up of Manila Bay along the Baywalk.  That is the stretch between the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the US Embassy along Roxas Boulevard in Manila.  Aside from Pasig River, these are two of the most favorite cleanup places of volunteer groups.  These two bodies of water, which feed into each other, are also among the most polluted not only in Manila but also in the whole country.

An awesome and awful list

Just how dirty is Manila Bay?  A source identified the following types of garbage that one can find in the bay at any given time:  plastic bags, plastic wrappers, polystyrenes (like styrofoam, print cartridges, coat hangers, DVD cases), plastic bottles, hard plastics, rubbers, metals and cans, glass, hazardous wastes, diapers and napkins, biodegradables and other discards.

That is an awesome and awful list of garbage.  They are not only numerous but there are also tons of them. The sea creatures that inhabit the bay, whatever is left of them, certainly did not cause the accumulation of all these garbage.  And so, where do they come from?  From senseless and highly irresponsible citizens of the metropolis who live along the bay as well as those who live along Pasig River and the other tributaries in the metropolis.  How do they contribute to this mess?  All the garbage they throw day in and day out find their way into the Manila Bay where the rivers eventually empty.

In addition, there are a lot of businesses – big, medium and small in sizes, situated along the bay and the rivers that treat the waterways as their dumping ground. They do so to get away with the attendant activities and cost of properly managing their garbage and refuse.  The solution is to just dump everything into the water system and let the environment take care of itself.  All these business have learned to externalize the garbage cost through their wanton throwing of liquid and solid waste into the metropolis’ river system.

A heavily polluted bay

The same source who identified the types of garbage being thrown into the bay also said that the “bay’s coliform levels (an indicator of water pollution) was still in the millions.”  This means it is heavily polluted.  And to think there are people who swim in the bay, especially during summer, to escape the heat and as a form of recreation.  They are putting themselves in harm’s way.

In the overall scheme of things, the cleanup activity will not amount to anything significant because all the groups who do the cleanup are only able to clean so much with the garbage throwers more efficient and prodigious with the garbage they throw daily.  If only for the fact that it develops a sense of volunteerism and community outreach as well as puts in their consciousness the level of pollution in the water system and hopefully develop a more nurturing mindset among them, the cleanup would have served its purpose.

A lasting solution

But in order for us to have a lasting solution to this problem, we have to solve it at the source—the people and businesses who incessantly throw all forms of garbage in the waterways.  We know who they are and where they are.  Make them stop their illegal acts and as part of their restitution, make them be the one to be at the forefront of cleaning the bay and all the water system they sullied with their garbage throwing.  Let those who are responsible be accountable for their actions.

Restitution and accountability, enforcement of laws, education of the public and development of a caring and responsible attitude – these are things we need to have to clean up the world-famous Manila Bay so we can be truly proud of it again.


Dr. Berino is an Associate Professional Lecturer with the Decision Sciences and Innovation Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University (DLSU). He can be reached at [email protected]

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