SC Orders Executive Agencies to
Clean-up Manila Bay
Posted: December 18, 2008;
By Jay B. Rempillo
The Supreme Court today ordered all concerned government agencies to coordinate in the clean-up, restoration, and preservation of Manila Bay.
In a unanimous 36-page decision penned by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., the Court ordered petitioner government agencies to coordinate the cleanup, restoration, and preservation of the water quality of the Manila Bay, “a place with a proud historic past, once brimming with marine life and, for so many decades in the in the past, a spot for different contact recreation activities, but now a dirty and slowly dying expanse mainly because of the abject official indifference of people and institutions,” in line with the country’s development objective to attain economic growth in a manner consistent with the protection, preservation, and revival of our marine waters.
The petitioners include the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (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), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“In 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. Indeed, time is of the essence; 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,” the Court said.
“The importance of the Manila Bay as a sea resource, playground, and as a historical landmark cannot be over-emphasized. It is not yet too late in the day to restore the Manila Bay to its former splendor and bring back the plants and sea life that once thrived in its blue waters. But the tasks ahead, daunting as they may be, could only be accomplished if those mandated, with the help and cooperation of all civic-minded individuals, would put their minds to these tasks and take responsibility. This means that the State, through petitioners, has to take the lead in the preservation and protection of the Manila Bay,” it stressed.
The case stemmed from the complaint filed by Concerned Residents of Manila Bay before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Imus, Cavite against several government agencies for the clean-up, rehabilitation, and protection of the Manila Bay.
The Court denied the petitions and affirmed with modifications the September 28, 2005 decision of the Court of Appeals and the September 13, 2002 decision of the RTC in view of subsequent supervening events in the case. The Concerned Residents of Manila Bay won in the RTC and the CA had sustained the lower court’s ruling.
In its decision on the case at bar, the High Court directed
(1) The DENR to fully implement its Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategyfor the rehabilitation, restoration, and conservation of the Manila Bay at the earliest possible time and to call regular coordination meetings with concerned government departments and agencies to ensure the successful implementation of the aforesaid plan of action in accordance with its indicated completion schedules;
(2)The DILG to direct all local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan to inspect all factories, commercial establishments, and private homes along the banks of the major river systems in their respective areas of jurisdiction, such as, but not limited to, the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan Rivers, Tullahan-Tenejeros Rivers, the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) Rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) River, the Laguna De Bay, and other minor rivers and waterways that eventually discharge water into the Manila Bay; and the lands abutting the bay, to determine whether they have wastewater treatment facilities or hygienic septic tanks as prescribed by existing laws, ordinances, and rules and regulations. If none be found, these LGUs shall be ordered to require non-complying establishments and homes to set up said facilities or septic tanks within a reasonable time to prevent industrial wastes, sewage water, and human wastes from flowing into these rivers, waterways,esteros, and the Manila Bay, under pain of closure or imposition of fines and other sanctions;
(3) The MWSS to provide, install, operate, and maintain the necessary adequate waste water treatment facilities in Metro Manila, Rizal, and Cavite where needed at the earliest possible time;
(4) The Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), through the local water districts and in coordination with the DENR, to provide, install, operate, and maintain sewerage and sanitation facilities and the efficient and safe collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan at the earliest possible time;
(5) The DA, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource (BFAR), to improve and restore the marine life of the Manila Bay and to assist the LGUs in Metro Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan in developing, using recognized methods, the fisheries and aquatic resources in the Manila Bay;
(6) The PCG and the PNP Maritime Group to coordinate in apprehending violators of PD 979, RA 8550, and other existing laws and regulations designed to prevent marine pollution in the Manila Bay;
(7) The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to immediately adopt such measures to prevent the discharge and dumping of solid and liquid wastes and other ship-generated wastes into the Manila Bay waters from vessels docked at ports and apprehend the violators;
(8) The MMDA, as the lead agency and implementor of programs and projects for flood control projects and drainage services in Metro Manila, to dismantle and remove all structures, constructions, and other encroachments established or built in violation of RA 7279, and other applicable laws along the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan Rivers, the NCR (Parañaque-Zapote, Las Piñas) Rivers, the Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tenejeros Rivers, and connecting waterways and esteros in Metro Manila; also to establish, operate, and maintain a sanitary landfill within a period of one year from finality of this Decision. It is also ordered to cause the apprehension and filing of the appropriate criminal cases against violators of the respective penal provisions of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act(RA 9003), sec. 27 of RA 9275 (The Clean Water Act), and other existing laws on pollution;
(9) The DPWH, as the principal implementor of programs and projects for flood control services in the rest of the country more particularly in Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Cavite, and Laguna, to remove and demolish all structures, constructions, and other encroachments built in breach of RA 7279 and other applicable laws along the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) Rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) River, the Laguna De Bay, and other rivers, connecting waterways, and esteros that discharge wastewater into the Manila Bay;
(10) The DOH within one year from finality of the Decision, to determine if all licensed septic and sludge companies have the proper facilities for the treatment and disposal of fecal sludge and sewage coming from septic tanks. The DOH was further directed to give the companies, if found to be non-complying, a reasonable time within which to set up the necessary facilities under pain of cancellation of its environmental sanitation clearance;
(11) The DepED to integrate lessons on pollution prevention, waste management, environmental protection, and like subjects in the school curricula of all levels to inculcate in the minds and hearts of students and, through them, their parents and friends, the importance of their duty toward achieving and maintaining a balanced and healthful ecosystem in the Manila Bay and the entire Philippine archipelago;
(12) The DBM to consider incorporating an adequate budget in the General Appropriations Act of 2010 and succeeding years to cover the expenses relating to the cleanup, restoration, and preservation of the water quality of the Manila Bay, in line with the country’s development objective to attain economic growth in a manner consistent with the protection, preservation, and revival of our marine waters;
(13) And the heads of petitioners-agencies MMDA, DENR, DepEd, DOH, DA, DPWH, DBM, PCG, PNP Maritime Group, DILG, and also of MWSS, LWUA, and PPA, in line with the principle of “continuing mandamus”, from finality of the Decision, to each submit to the Court a quarterly progressive report of the activities undertaken in accordance with this Decision.
“The cleanup and/or restoration of the Manila Bay is only an aspect and the initial stage of the long-term solution. The preservation of the water quality of the bay after the rehabilitation process is as important as the cleaning phase. It is imperative then that the wastes and contaminants found in the rivers, inland bays, and other bodies of water be stopped from reaching the Manila Bay. Otherwise, any cleanup effort would just be a futile, cosmetic exercise, or, in no time at all, the Manila Bay water quality would again deteriorate below the ideal minimum standards set by Environment Code (PD 1152), the Philippines Clean Water Act of 2004 (RA 9275), and other relevant laws,” the Court said.
It added, “It thus behooves the Court to put the heads of the petitioner-department-agencies and the bureaus and offices under them on continuing notice about, and to enjoin them to perform, their mandates and duties towards cleaning up the Manila Bay and preserving the quality of its water to the ideal level. Under what other judicial discipline describes as continuing mandamus: the Court, may under extraordinary circumstances, issue directives with the end in view of ensuring that its decision would not be set to naught by administrative inaction or indifference. In India, the doctrine of continuing mandamus was used to enforce directives of the court to clean up the length of the Ganges River from industrial and municipal pollution.”
The Court said the number one cause of pollution of the major river systems and the Manila Bay are the
shanties and other unauthorized structures which do not have septic tanks along the the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan Rivers, Tullahan-Tenejeros Rivers, the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) Rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) River, the Laguna De Bay, and other minor rivers and waterways, river banks, and esteros which discharge their waters into the major rivers and eventually the Manila Bay.
The Court said that while the factories and other industrial establishments standing along or near the banks of the Pasig River, other major rivers, and connecting waterways may not be treated as unauthorized constructions, “some of these establishments undoubtedly contribute to the pollution of the Pasig River and waterways.”
The Court noted the The Garbage Book, the Asian Development Bank-commissioned study on the garbage problem in Metro Manila, which reported that “the garbage crisis in the metropolitan area is as alarming as it is shocking.” (GR Nos. 171947-48, MMDA v. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, December 18, 2008)