Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta on Wednesday, Oct. 14, expressed his satisfaction on the efforts of the government to speed up the cleanup, restoration, and preservation of Manila Bay.
Among other observations, Peralta specifically cited the Solar-Powered Sewerage Treatment Plant.
“Nakita ko unang una sa wastewater treatment na ito, malinis na pala ang tubig na lumalabas dito (I first noticed in the wastewater treatment facility that water after treatment is already clear), he said.
But Peralta begged off from commenting on the now dolomite-covered portion of Manila since there is a pending Supreme Court (SC) petition asking the High Court to cite in contempt the officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR for dumping dolomite sand which is said to be hazardous to health and the environment.
Peralta was with DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and other officials on his tour of Manila Bay to personally see the implementation of the SC’s 2008 decision.
Associate Justices Mario V. Lopez and Ricardo R. Rosario were with Peralta in the tour.
The landmark 2008 decision on environmental protection directed practically all government agencies, including those in law enforcement, to speed up the cleanup, restoration, and preservation of Manila Bay.
Written by retired Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., now Marinduque governor, the SC said: “In the light of the ongoing environmental degradation, the court wishes to emphasize the extreme necessity for all concerned executive departments and agencies to immediately act and discharge their respective official duties and obligations.”
It pointed out that “time is of the essence…, and hence, there is a need to set timetables for the performance and completion of the tasks, some of them as defined for them by law and the nature of their respective offices and mandates,” it stressed.
Directed to undertake immediate action on the Manila Bay problem are the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), DENR, Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DoH), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Budget and Management ((DBM), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
Thereafter, the SC issued a continuing mandamus to compel the government agencies to perform their tasks.
It then created the Manila Bay Advisory Committee to monitor and evaluate the reports submitted by the agencies. The committee is now headed by Chief Justice Peralta with Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda as vice chairperson and Associate Justice Edgardo Delos Santos and Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez as members.
The ocular inspection of Manila Bay was initiated by Peralta after receiving the DENR’s progress report based on its continuing mandamus.
The SC’s public information office (PIO) said:
“In its report, the DENR discussed the clean-up activities currently being undertaken by the concerned agencies. These include the removal of garbage in the river systems, esteros (drainage canals) and water quality improvement, among others.
“It mentioned that DENR has also hired estero rangers who are specifically tasked to clean up esteros and disseminate information regarding solid waste management.
“It also discussed ‘Project Kubeta Ko,’ or the strategic putting up of clean public toilets in nearby areas.
“The DENR also mentioned the rehabilitation of Baywalk. Citing a press release of the Department of Health, DENR said that the use of dolomite is not hazardous to health, noting that ‘the dolomite in natural bulk state is not a known health hazard.’
“The DENR also pointed out that ‘crushed dolomite material is 100 times bigger than dust, therefore does not get suspended in air.’ It added that dolomite has been used by several resorts in the country as well as abroad to add aesthetics to their surroundings.”
Peralta asked the DENR to submit scientific studies and findings as to the effects of dolomite to the people.
Last January, Peralta spoke during the first anniversary of the “Battle for Manila Bay.”
In his keynote address, the Chief Justice underscored that “the right to a clean environment is one of the highest rights afforded to every Filipino and that every generation has the duty to protect the environment.”
Peralta vowed to ensure the implementation of the SC decision on the cleanup, restoration, and rehabilitation of Manila Bay.