September 18, 2020 | Online
“Our collective vision for Manila Bay: From cleaning to healing across ecosystems”
The Geological Society of the Philippines, in addressing its goals to provide a platform to discuss hot topics and current issues, organized a virtual forum to discuss what is going on in Manila Bay. There were 1,010 participants who joined the online forum held on Sept. 18, 2020 via Zoom, the NRCP Research Pod Facebook livestream and the Xperto platform. Posts on Facebook were shared 272 times and reached more than 17,000 people. The forum was co-organized with the University of the Philippines Los Baños – School of Environmental Science and Management (UPLB-SESAM), and the DOST – National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP).
Dr. Carla Dimalanta, President of the Geological Society of the Philippines started the forum with her opening remarks. She stressed that the online forum was organized so as to help the general public understand how the government is planning to move towards improving Manila Bay and how the initiatives might have been better handled. Rather than just focusing on the beach enrichment, the forum hopes to provide a platform for engaging discussions in the context of environmental management through a whole of system approach.
The rationale for the forum was explained further by Dr. Edanjarlo Marquez, Chair of the NRCP Division on Earth and Space Sciences.
Invited to share their views on the matter were experts from DENR and the academe.
Dr. Rex Victor Cruz, of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, former Chancellor of UPLB and member of the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP) team contracted by NEDA, provided an overview of the MBSDMP framework. He emphasized the science-based planning anchored on providing an enabling environment, institutionalization of the framework and stakeholder engagement. He enumerated the measures by which the Master Plan can be considered as a success or failure. These include reduction of pollution load, improvement of solid waste management, reduction of exposure to flooding, restoration of natural habitats, boosting of fish biomass, production of responsible and sustainable tourism and setting up of an enabling environment. Dr. Cruz also briefly touched on the suggested possible institutional set ups of the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay.
Atty. Jonas Leones, Undersecretary for Environment and International Affairs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, gave updates on the national government’s rehabilitation efforts of the Manila Bay. He explained that the Supreme Court Mandamus requires the national government to make the Bay suitable for swimming and contact recreational activities. Because of this, various government interventions have been put in place foremost of which is the conduct of regular monitoring of the water quality around the bay along with various geo-engineering measures. The geo-engineering interventions include the installation of trash booms, setting up of silt curtains during dredging work, beach nourishment, dredging and desilting of the bay and esteros, and installation of sewage treatment plants around the bay. Beach nourishment is only one small aspect of the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
Dr. Karlo Queaño, Assistant Professor at the Ateneo de Manila University explained the physical characteristics of Manila Bay, particularly on how sediments may be transported around the bay, how those need to be considered when planning for developments around the bay, and how accelerated sea level rise could influence coastal erosion. Therefore, the importance of considering these in the maintenance/development planning around the bay cannot be underestimated. These considerations are particularly important if there is a plan to conduct regular beach enrichment activities. He also stressed that appropriate adaptation strategies must be considered in the context of the physical characteristics of the Bay, climate change and accelerated sea level rise.
Dr. Jonathan Dungca, Professor of Civil Engineering at De La Salle University, discussed the importance of considering liquefaction in designing engineering interventions. This is particularly important for the Manila Bay area considering that earthquakes of Magnitude 5 could already be a concern for backfilled materials such as those being used in the replenishment of Manila Bay. He stressed that there is always an engineering solution to any development activity. But for Manila Bay, liquefaction must be one of the most important considerations in coming up with the appropriate engineering interventions.
Dr. Stella Tirol, Dean of the College of Development Communication of UP Los Baños explained why the issue of the dolomite has become a very big emotional issue. She said that news of the “dolomite beach enrichment” was ill-time as we are currently dealing with a health crisis. There is also anxiety among the general public about what the rehabilitation can cause. Among the national government’s weaknesses in handling the dolomite issue is the lack of providing the general public with the big picture – people do not know how the white sand figures into the government’s bigger rehabilitation efforts. There are unharmonized mouth pieces where representatives of government offices provide contradicting statements and further aggravated when previously issued statements are retracted or reversed. She suggested that the government should look closely into a communication plan or package so that the government’s plans are clearly expressed and communicated.
In closing the forum, Dr. Decibel Faustino-Eslava, Dean of the UPLB-SESAM, stated that this online forum covered only a few aspects of the whole issue. It is hoped that it will further spark interest for more discussions, not only on the Manila Bay rehabilitation, but also on other very pressing matters that impact our long-term aspirations for a healthy and sustainable country.