Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu rallied support from his fellow Cabinet members for the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay and Boracay Island as ordered by no less than President Rodrigo RoaDuterte.

“With your cooperation and support, we will win in the twin battles to save our natural resources: saving Boracay, and our national heritage, Manila Bay,” Cimatu told his colleagues during the joint forum of the Cabinet Clusters on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCAM-DRR),and Security, Justice and Peace in Davao City prior to the President’s State of the Nation Address.

Cimatu chairs the Cabinet Cluster on CCAM-DRR, being the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Cimatu thanked those who are taking part in the so-called “Battle for Manila Bay” which have so far gathered over 10,000 volunteers since the massive clean up drive was launched in January this year.

The rehabilitation efforts for Manila Bay has gained support from 178 local government units and 5,714 barangays around the bay.

In addition, the private sector has joined the efforts with the signing of partnerships with 32 firms for the adoption of esteros and creeks that drain to the bay. The companies provide dredging equipment and cleaning materials, conduct training and information campaigns and mobilize communities for the clean up of the bay.

However, Cimatu said the bay’s current state “is still far from our dream to make it clean and swimmable.”

“The Battle for Manila Bay is a long-drawn battle that we can only win with deep commitment and tremendous work,” Cimatu pointed out.

Cimatu, who also chairs the inter-agency Manila Bay Task Force, promised to address garbage collection and management, especially in the esteros, with Chairman Danilo Lim of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority as ground commander.

He said the task force plans to construct communal facilities and rehabilitate the breakwater along the mouth of Pasig River and Manila Bay, particularly the one near the Port Area.

Recently, 198 informal settler families (ISFs) from Estero de Magdalena in Malate, Manila were relocated to TreceMartires in Cavite while 50 ISFs from Estero de San Antonio de Abad, also in Manila, were transferred to Tala, Caloocan City.

Informal settlements usually lack sewage facilities forcing ISFs to dispose human waste directly to the esteros which is among the causes of poor water quality in the bay. Relocation is one component of the Manila Bay rehabilitation.

Cimatu said they plan to adopt a two-pronged approach in the restoration of the Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard: coastal and marine ecosystems enhancement; and establishment of wastewater treatment facilities, drainage diversion canal and modular sewerage treatment plants.

As for the Boracay rehabilitation, Cimatu said it is far from over as the DENR-led inter-agency task force “will soldier on to complete our mission.”

“Hindi pa tayotapossapagsasagipsa Boracay at iba pang nanganganibna tourist destinations,” the DENR chief declared.

Together with Secretary Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Cimatu said he will go after violators, including erring local government officials and establishments.

“We have filed charges and we are ready to file more cases in court,” Cimatu said.

With the help from Secretary Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Cimatu said they will put in place all infrastructure needed to bring Boracay back on top of the world’s prime tourist destinations.

Cimatu said the Boracaytask forceand the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples are set to rehabilitate the Ati Core Shelter in SitioLugutan, Barangay Manoc-Manoc for the benefit of the Ati communities.

“More programs will be implemented to promote business and livelihood in Boracay,” Cimatu disclosed.

“Our partners in the private sector have also committed to continue as protectors of the island,” he added. ###