Looking from afar, one would assume that it was just another day of rallyists on the streets. It was Sunday, January 27, and thousands of people flocked Roxas Boulevard, forming what appeared like a mass protest.
Only this time, people were holding and raising broomsticks instead of burning effigies. And in their slogans was the message of what they came there for: Save Manila Bay.
The mobilization of efforts to make Manila Bay a clutter-free coastline has never been more vigorous. Following Supreme Court’s continuing mandamus, and with the government’s warning to penalize those who violate environmental laws, the major rehabilitation of Manila Bay has finally commenced.
The first day of the massive cleanup gathered agencies, employees, students, and civic organizations resulting in over ten truckloads of trash collected.
Despite the political differences, this manifestation of ‘bayanihan’ or cooperative heroism only proves that among many other conflicts which polarize the nation, saving Manila Bay is one battle where the Filipino people have a fighting chance.
Winning this fight is not merely a matter of national importance but also an opportunity to live a healthier life.
Against a common enemy
Serving as the port of Manila where the Philippines’ major center of economic activities takes place, Manila Bay is susceptible to environmental threats. Mostly from land-based municipal, industrial, and agricultural wastes that are discharged to the bay, pollution is at the forefront of its concerns.
Studies conducted by health authorities have shown that Manila Bay is extremely polluted, so much so that its waters contain millions of fecal bacteria units per cubic meter. For a body of water to be swimmable, the unit content must not be more than 100. It is easy to conclude (pardon the comparison) that swimming at the bay can’t get any dirtier than drinking other people’s urine and swallowing their feces.
But despite the risks and the local government’s prohibition, some are still tempted to take a dip, oblivious of the infectious diseases that they might contract. The Department of Health has identified the common health hazards that the bacteria from tainted waters might cause, some of which are diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever and Hepatitis B, skin allergies, and respiratory ailments.
For many decades, the quality of Manila Bay’s waters never passed any safety standard, and this fact comes as no surprise.
What’s worth a fighting chance?
The ‘Battle of Manila Bay’ is far from over. The government has allotted a considerable amount of budget for the rehabilitation, which according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will take roughly seven years to achieve gratifying results.
This needs no questioning, but for emphasis: what do we really fight for?
Clean water is vital for all forms of life, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that there is a correlation between clean water and living a healthy life. Pollution jeopardizes human life as much as it deteriorates the surroundings. With the initiatives to address the pollution problem, contamination of dirty water can be prevented, thus, reducing risks of contracting diseases.
Furthermore, the long-term cleanup drive to bring back the healthy Manila Bay goes beyond water contamination. Several studies suggest that exposure to clean natural environments can psychologically benefit people’s mental health. Being at peace with nature alleviates stress and enhances people’s productivity. This leads to a better outlook in life.
Looking at the bigger picture, investing in environmental sustainability is almost as good as a health insurance that guarantees lifetime wellness. Truth be told, living with sickness—and all the medical expenses that come with it—costs more than living a healthy life.
Saving Manila Bay and the environment in general is saving lives.
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