Tuesday, February 5, 2019

With the hope of a clean Manila Bay

Manila Bay Sunset. Disclaimer: This is not the part of Manila Bay that is newly cleaned. Photo courtesy to Marboy Sayno.

On the 23rd of January this year, I visited the side of Manila Bay that faced westward as time hit six in the evening. Locally known as "The Baywalk", it stretches from the US Embassy to the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Despite the foul smell that the breeze brings, it is a popular go-to site for students, couples, or lonely hearts. The source of this reeking scent is from a decade's carelessness. The waste that dances with the waves as the water crash-es on the rocky face carry with it various microbes that could have detrimental effects on human health. For that part of Manila Bay, it is highly recommended that you do not go skinny dipping or swimming.

Yet, when you go there, you will still see some children, probably orphaned or neglected, who play, carefree as any child should be, in this disease-stricken body of water. When you tread slowly along the walk, at any time and at any point, you will see the down-and-out finding refuge and setting up their own massage business just across a few folks of different skin, from far-off lands, who would like to complete their experience of Manila by including a stroll through this place

And when you turn your head just a little bit to any direction, you will see star-crossed lovers seeking solace, their hearts overcoming the awkwardness of meeting for the first time. Turning to another direction, you will see lone souls who seem to carry heavy weights on their shoulder. All of them hope that the waves would carry away their problems. But when you fully turn your direction towards the sea, just as the short hand of the clock slowly creeps from 5 to 6 and its long hand serves as a beat for the flaring scene that unravels over the horizon, that's when you'll really appreciate the warmth and stillness that a sunset brings to your nerves.

There is so much to appreciate at The Baywalk, but it is only a small part of the whole Manila Bay. So, it was very good news to hear that the government, specifically the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), along with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authorities (MMDA), Local Government Units (LGU), and volunteers from both the public and private sectors, initiated a rehabilitation program. The project aims to continue the objectives put in a place by the Operational Plan for Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (OPMBCS), as prescribed by the Supreme Court and dating back to December 2008.

The objectives include identifying critical habitats that require intervention, reviewing the management awareness within coastal communities for the protection and management of marine resources, and reviewing the implementation of the Integrated Coasted Management Plans. Although most of these objectives are being met, the clean-up drive of 5,000 volunteers was an excellent step to furthering their goals. This is due to many citizens who took notice and proudly shared the clean-up drive throughout the internet. On the surface, The Baywalk is clean, a very good start since most of the stench is gone. But it would also be nice if we could see and experience a Baywalk that is pristine down to the microscopic level.

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