By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
As a student till the ’80s, it was common in books to reference the beauty of Manila Bay and its soul-soothing sunsets. It wasn’t just mentioned, but spoken of — not only in memoirs or poetry and fiction, but even textbooks on history, social studies, language, and science.
Born and raised in Manila, my fondest childhood memories are ingrained with walks along the bay with my dad. And bet on it that visitors from the provinces will not skip driving by the bay before going home.
It was the “crown jewel” of the capital, up until a teaspoon of its water, when swallowed, became fatal.
That’s why Manila Bay, as known by the kids of today, is a cesspool of all sorts of bacteria, wastes, coliform, chemicals, and sludge. Solid wastes had settled that one could walk over the waterfront like the devil himself. It was so deeply filthy that the last mayor of Manila did not twitch in throwing in more garbage in the bay for a photo op.
Now, Manila Bay is being rehabilitated under a comprehensive plan budgeted and implemented only in this administration spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Since two years ago, restaurants and other establishments whose drainage and sewage pipes lead directly to the bay have been closed for the first time.
A solar-powered sewage treatment facility and adjacent 1.5-kilometer wastewater interceptor pipeline have been installed. Spillways and outfalls throughout Manila were overhauled and repaired. Dredging has emptied the bay of thousands of tons of garbage and underwater engineering protection interventions have been completed.
And as icing on the cake, white sand — however fake — has been poured to form a shore, restoring Manila Bay beyond its former beauty. The Department of Health has spoken its truth that the dolomite used is not a health hazard and does not compromise the people’s safety and health. It’s the same truth in world-famous man-made beaches as Monaco and Plantation Bay.
I have criticized this administration many times for many sins, but not this time. It took a Mindanoan ex-mayor, not any president from Luzon, to value our rotting Manila Bay enough to clean it up and afford it the love and respect it deserves.
I share the gratitude of the Manilenos, as contained in the City Council Resolution, which says it all. I back the father of the city, Mayor Isko Moreno, in defending the bay rehabilitation project in any and every venue that he can.
The city is correct in saying: “More than ever, today’s trying times of crisis is precisely the moment for all to be unified in action and essentially so in governance, which is why we shall be one with the stand of our leader, the Mayor of the City of Manila, in fully supporting the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, particularly the government’s ongoing beachfront white sand enhancement restoration effort, for any logical or rationally sane mind will, without a shadow of a doubt, clearly see this as a purely beneficial, welcome, and much-needed improvement, a definite upside in every way and aspect, truly worth pushing for.”
As for the pretenders who suddenly came out of nowhere to raise hell against the newfound beauty of Manila Bay, be left to grumble, murmur, and complain.
The rest of us can reclaim the joy of breezy walks and lazy afternoons on Manila Bay’s white sandy beach.
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