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Duterte creates inter-agency task force for Manila Bay rehab

President Rodrigo Duterte has created an inter-agency task force aimed at ensuring “robust and integrated” implementation of rehabilitation program for the polluted Manila Bay, according to an order released by Malacañang on Thursday.

Duterte issued Administrative Order 16 on February 19 creating the task force headed by the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The vice chairpersons are the secretaries of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Tourism (DOT).

Its members include the secretaries of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Health, and Department of Agriculture; chairpersons of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and Metro Manila Development Authority; and executive director of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.

Administrators of the Local Water Utilities Administration and Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System, director of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority and representatives from the Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc.

"The convergence of the national government agencies and local government units in the Manila Bay region and the active participation of private and public stakeholders, are necessary to facilitate the robust and integrated implementation of all rehabilitation and restoration efforts at the Manila Bay," the order stated.

According to the order, the task force is mandated to enforce relevant provisions of Code of Sanitation of the Philippines (Presidential Decree 856), Philippine Clean Water Act (Republic Act 9275) and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) to ensure the “complete rehabilitation, restoration and conservation” of the Manila Bay.

The DENR earlier said the estimated cost of the rehabilitation and cleanup of the famed body of water is P47 billion.

The effort to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay began on January 27 which includes  the relocation of over 220,000 informal settler families living near the bay.

The task force is empowered to require all government facilities and other establishments, including households to immediately connect existing sewage lines to available sewage systems or sewage treatment plants (STPs) or to construct individual STPs, whenever applicable, as well as to issue appropriate orders, impose fines, penalties, and other administrative sanctions to compel compliance.

The body must also undertake remedial measures using engineering and technological interventions to improve the water quality of the bay as well as prepare and commence the implementation of a comprehensive plan for the relocation of informal settler families.

Duterte also instructed the task force to prepare a comprehensive plan for expediting the sanitation program of LGUs within the Manila Bay region by 2026 and speed up compliance with the 2008 Supreme Court order on the cleanup.

The task force should ensure that concerned agencies and LGUs undertake apppropriate measures relative to violation of environmental laws such as demolition, closure or cessation of business and filing of administrative charges against erring persons or establishments.

The order calls for a massive information, education and communication drive in order to gain public support for the cleanup and rehabilitation efforts.

The President also ordered the task force to improve resource management of the Manila Bay and create models of inter-LGU cooperation in ecosystem management, with “special focus” on the Laguna Lake and Pasig River.

Duterte also required the task force to submit a quarterly report on the implementation of the order to the Office of the Executive Secretary.

The report should include actions taken by the LGUs and recommendations on amendment of existing laws and issuances.

The funding for the task force shall be sourced from existing appropriations of its member-agencies and other appropriate funding sources as the Department of Budget and Management may identify, subject to existing budgeting, accounting and auditing laws and regulations.

The administrative order took effect immediately. —KBK, GMA News