Manila Bay’s fight for life | Inquirer Opinion

Manila Bay’s fight for life

/ 05:03 AM February 05, 2023

Manila Bay is not dead. But whether it is barely living or has a healthy ecosystem is another matter. And whether it thrives or dies is up to government.

Since 2000, per the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), there have been 12 oil spills in Manila Bay, which also serves as a port. Together with the discharges from industries and cargo ships that dock at the port, DENR said these oil spills have increased the presence of oil and grease in the water. DENR’s fisheries bureau has found traces of metals including copper, cadmium, and zinc coming from the bay’s seabed—and because they have reduced the oxygen in the water, they have made the bay inhabitable for marine life. Fishermen have been told not to fish there because Manila Bay is supposedly dead.

But those who have been fishing in the bay have refuted this claim as reported in this paper last Jan. 31. They can still fish there, the fisherfolk said, with recent catch including “alubaybay,” a sardine variety that they would salt and dry then sell. Aside from fish, a 160 square meter coral garden was also discovered by volunteer divers in Ternate, Cavite, in June 2021. Then in February 2022 during a cleanup activity, coastal rangers of the Manila Baywalk found a sea hare and its eggs, as well as a file snake along the shore of the controversial dolomite beach. These are further proof that the bay, known for its beautiful sunset views, is very much alive.

Manila Bay, which covers the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, and Tarlac, has a rich history. It has witnessed and survived historic battles such as the Battles of La Naval de Manila that ended Dutch attempts to seize the Philippines, the Battle of Manila Bay during the Philippine-American War, and World War II that destroyed its fortified islands like Corregidor.


What it might not survive are the harmful human activities that have turned it into Metro Manila’s dump site. Sewage from households, industries, and agriculture flows untreated and unchecked into the bay, bringing with it solid wastes such as plastic products and food scraps, polluting the water, and causing the coastline to overflow with trash. But more than the water pollution, experts said that government-sanctioned seabed quarrying has caused massive damages and losses in the bay’s fishing grounds and marine resources.

These destructive activities, the many years of neglect, and willful ignorance about the need to rehabilitate it beyond cosmetic work on but a small portion like in the case of the dolomite beach are tantamount to deliberately killing Manila Bay. Despite petitions and pleas from environmental activists to rehabilitate the bay through clean-up, conservation, and restoration of marine ecosystems, the government has instead green-lighted reclamation projects that are seen to worsen its environment, threaten its survival, and ruin its ecosystem and biodiversity for good. There are at least 21 reclamation projects that have been approved and three more are in the pipeline — these will occupy 9,000 hectares of the sea and which, environmentalists have warned, could cause more flooding in places like Cavite and Las Piñas. It was revealed in a Senate hearing last year that many of these projects — that include the construction of an international airport, an expressway, and commercial and residential areas—were approved without proper consultation with stakeholders.

Oceana cited reasons why Manila Bay must be saved: 1) it is the center of biodiversity with over eight species of shellfish and 50 species of fish, including a newly-discovered species of sardines called Sardinella pacifica; 2) it serves as a stopover for different species of migratory birds that seek shelter in its wetlands, particularly the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area where the country’s endemic ducks also seek refuge; 3) it has fruit-bearing mangroves including Sonneratia caseolaris whose fruit called mangrove apple (“palapat”) is used to make jams, tarts, candies, vinegar, and as a souring agent in sinigang and paksiw. However, these mangroves that help prevent erosion and absorb the impact of storms have been reduced to around 734 hectares from 74,000 hectares at the start of the 20th century.

The seabed quarrying and reclamation projects are not consistent with any rehabilitation effort. They will in fact cause irreversible damage to the bay’s ecosystems, displace communities whose livelihood depends on it, and make cities and towns across three regions more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The DENR should put a stop to these reclamation and seabed quarrying activities unless it is the government’s deliberate intent to murder the bay in favor of big business under the guise of development. It is ironic that while progressive countries are working toward environmental sustainability, the Philippines is destroying a very important ecosystem instead of helping it stay alive.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

TAGS: Editorial, Manila Bay, opinion

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.