There’s a lot to be done to make Manila Bay ‘swimmable’

May 14, 2019

This post was originally published at by Rizal Raoul Reyes. on May 13, 2019.

Despite the massive efforts being implemented by the government through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to rehabilitate Manila Bay, there is a lot to be done in terms of making it 100 percent clean and “swimmable.”

Dr. Robert So, chairman of Ecosystems Technologies Inc., told the BusinessMirror in a recent e-mail interview that fixing the Manila Bay problem, requires a holistic approach.

“Technology alone won’t solve the problem because there is more than one problem; or that there are many problems, that contribute to the main problem that is the state of the Manila Bay,” So said.

Part of the problem, he explained, is the “enforcement of regulations, which we are seeing an improvement of.”

Another is coming up with the “appropriate regulations based on many perspectives, including that of science and technology. But if we are solving the particular problem that is the lack of space to locate a working treatment facility for sewage, then there is a technology solution that we can discuss.”

To develop a comprehensive road map on cleaning-up the Manila Bay, So urged stakeholders to take time to listen to each other and from other sectors.

In the discussion, So said each stakeholder group must give their perspective as contributions to the effort.

For the organizations that will implement the plan in the cleanup, he suggested it would be well to educate themselves in the science and technology of pollution treatment, as well as the history of environmental rehabilitation efforts around the world.

As far as the business sector is concerned, So said they should be required to treat their effluent sewage and acquire technologies from an unregulated market of suppliers.

“Then I would include members of the science and technology sector who are true experts in sewage in wastewater treatment,” he said.

To develop an environmental mindset among the masses, he said there must be a change in behaviors and cultural norms in Philippine society, specifically valuing long-term security over immediate convenience. He said this would have a huge impact in the decisions of the people on what they buy or are willing to pay for.

“Are we willing to pay more in association dues as a tenant or homeowner in a development that needs to install, upgrade or maintain a sewage treatment plant? Are we willing to live in a less convenient address if we know that the development has invested in superior sewage treatment or is reusing water for nonpotable purposes,” So explained.

Putting environmental sustainability will play a big role in buying green products and implementing pro-green measures, he said.

“Owners of businesses, developers and property managers, and owners have always considered treating sewage and wastewater as an expense instead of an investment. While there is a cost associated with protecting the environment, it is indeed an investment for the benefit of future generations,” he stressed.

On the government side, it must pursue good governance for the benefit of the people. Moreover, it needs to become experts the way private interests employ experts. “This is so we, as citizens, have experts on our side, and not only the private interests,” he said.

So said the cleanup of Manila Bay “will take more time than what has been announced.” Nevertheless, he commended that the effort of the government is the “humility it displayed when the leaders acknowledged that the government did not do its job.”

He admitted this is a complex undertaking and stakeholders must now invest in learning and developing true expertise.

As an expert in environmental technologies for over 30 years, So said he is willing to support them and willing to learn with them as a fellow contributor to environmental sustainability.

“I am also willing to share what I, myself, have learned as an environmental technologist, and advocate for over 30 years.

“Grand pronouncements can inspire, saying that the Manila Bay will be safe for swimming is inspiring. That language has its place. It makes me want to help make it happen,” he pointed out.

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