Mar 31, 2017

It rarely fails to deliver gloriously vibrant sunsets to photographers, tourists, and lovers enjoying its warm sea breeze. But underneath the beautiful swirls of color, Manila Bay is quietly turning into a 17,000-square-meter cesspool of health hazards.

According to the study Manila Bay: Environmental Challenges and Opportunities by G.S. Jacinto, R.V. Azanza, I.B. Velasquez, and F.P. Siringan, there are an estimated 16 million people living in cities and municipalities within close proximity to the bay. “Large amounts of waste drain into the bay from domestic discharges since only 15 percent of the population is connected to the Metro Manila Sewerage System (IMO 1994),” says the study.

Add to this the liters of toxic chemicals dumped into the bay by factories, oil spills from ships, old engine oil from vehicles, and mounds of garbage swimming in the bay. This lack of sense of accountability has nowhere to go but turn around and bite us where it hurts. “Cancer, immune system disease, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, congenital malformation, [and] developmental disorders” are just some of the health risks that the bay brings to the communities living around it, as stated by Dr. Romeo Quijano, Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, UP College of Medicine in the article Polluted Waters of Manila Bay Can Be Saved.

Now there is really just one thing left to do: we have to clean up Manila Bay, and it has to begin today. This is a gargantuan task—perhaps one that will last a lifetime or two—and requires the commitment of everyone, most of all the government, but it can be done. After all, “…Manila Bay, with all its pollution, still contains life and gives life,” said Dr. Laura David of UP-MSI at the same piece on Environews.

We have to begin with small but significant steps. Pepper your mayor with daily letters requesting a more comprehensive and universal sewerage system. Don’t litter, because every little bit thrown in canals eventually finds its way to Manila Bay.

This certainly is a challenge. But once it is met, we can be sure that sunsets at the bay will be beautiful, both above and in the water it is reflected on.


This story was originally published in Southern Living, June 2015.

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