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The public health crisis brought about by COVID-19 has added a new item on the types of waste that end up in Manila Bay: facemasks!

As with cigarette butts—the single most collected item on the world’s beaches according to Ocean Conservancy—and disposable plastics, discarded medical facemasks are slowly becoming a common sighting in the waters of Manila Bay, posing an added danger to the people who rely on its aquatic resources for a living.

To further prevent the increase of COVID-19 cases in the country, DENR-NCR is urging everyone to observe proper handling and responsible waste disposal of every single-use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a must practice for our battle against COVID-19.

The DENR also advised that all must observe proper solid waste management at home, as it is one of the top priority programs of the department. In disposing of used face masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns, make sure to have it separated to other solid waste. Experts suggest that it is possible to disinfect disposable PPEs through soaking it first on a mixture solution of 1 tbsp bleach and 1.5-liter of clean water for 30 minutes, before having it placed on a separate plastic sealed bag for at least 72hours  before garbage collection and have it labeled as `biomedical waste` or `infectious waste’.

As we continue to wear disposable PPEs such as face masks to protect ourselves, let us all be aware that PPEs if improperly disposed can expose other people to infection. Please dispose of these properly and help in the cleanup, rehabilitation, and protection of Manila Bay and its tributaries. Better yet, please consider using washable facemasks instead.

DENR National Capital Region conducted a webinar on safety induction on liquid and solid waste in line with the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Project activities amid COVID-19 threat on Wednesday, 29 July 2020.

The webinar was organized by the Manila Bay Site Coordinating/Management Office (MBSCMO) and attended by River Protection Officers (RPOs) of the DENR-NCR Field Offices. The RPOs are tasked with monitoring the status of the coastal areas, rivers, and esteros of Metro Manila. They also regularly coordinate with local governments in addressing issues that relate to the on-going cleanup of Manila Bay and enforcement of environmental laws at the barangay level. Together with EPOs, RPOs are therefore among the most exposed employees to potential health and safety hazards when doing fieldwork.

DENR National Capital Region Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services, Engr. Ignacio Almira Jr. welcomed the participants. He reminded them of the importance of knowing the proper handling of liquid and solid waste and other safety protocols to reduce their exposure to deadly viruses, bacterias, and other pathogens.

Engr. Jean Borromeo, Chief of the Environmental Monitoring and Enforcement Division of EMB-NCR, served as the resource person for the learning event. She explained why it is a must to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when doing fieldwork. She shared studies showing the presence of SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—in wastewater and surface waters. “It is very important that we wear a complete set of PPE during fieldwork as we may be exposed to the virus via dust or contaminated wastewater and surface water”, Engr. Borromeo cautioned. Engr. Borromeo also discussed the proper disposal of used PPEs, focusing particularly on used disposable face masks that are now slowly becoming part of the waste stream.

EMB-NCR Regional Director, Atty. Domingo Clemente Jr., for his part, advised the participants of their responsibility to be transparent in declaring their true health condition in keeping with health protocols. These protocols, he added, were put in place to contain the spread of the virus in our workplaces and, by extension, our homes.

Households discharging their wastewater directly into esteros is quite common in Metro Manila, as roughly only 20.45 percent of its more than 12 million residents are connected to sewer lines.

This would explain the high amount of fecal coliform found in our waterways, not to mention the amount of oil, sludge, and other organic pollutants. In 2018, results of water quality monitoring done by the Environmental Management Bureau-National Capital Region show fecal coliform running by the millions in water samples taken from different waterways of Metro Manila.

According to DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2016-08, the amount of fecal coliform found in Class C waterways (freshwater) should not exceed 200 MPN/per 100 mL to be considered safe. For Class SB (marine waters), it is 100 MPN/per 100 mL.

Fecal coliform is a type of bacteria found in the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans. Its presence is usually an indication of the presence of disease-causing organisms (pathogens) in the water system.

Experts have attributed the high presence of fecal coliform in rivers and esteros to the direct discharge of wastewater (both gray and black water). DENR, through its Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program, aims to bring the amount of coliform in Manila Bay and its tributaries down to safe level and is enjoining local governments to protect legal easements and strictly enforce environmental laws within their respective territorial jurisdictions.

DENR National Capital Region's South Field Office (SFO) led a webinar about the State of Manila Bay and related environmental laws on Friday, 24 July 2020.

Officials of Barangays Talon Tres, Talon Singko, and Pilar of Las Pinas City, together with Estero Rangers from said barangays, participated in the online learning event, aimed at raising public awareness and participation in the on-going Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program. Considering the rapid spread of COVID-19 and as the nation faces a public health crisis, the DENR National Capital Region makes sure the continuity of keeping tracks on the updates on the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program and the keeping the quality services of the regional office not hampered.

DENR National Capital Region held a Salamat-Mabuhay ceremony in honor of Mr. Alexander A. Dinola, Land Management Officer II, who retired earlier this month.

The ceremony led by Regional Executive Director Jacqueline A. Caancan and her Assistant Regional Directors, Al O. Orolfo for Management Services and Engr. Ignacio R. Almira Jr. for Technical Services was done via a teleconferencing application and was organized by the Human Resources Development Section (HRDS) under the Administrative Division and DENR Praise and Committee.

Mr. Dinola’s long-time colleagues from the Licenses, Patents, and Deeds Division (LPDD) attended the virtual send-off, as his family and friends. He was awarded a Plaque of Appreciation for his 22 years of service as an employee of the DENR National Capital Region.

Known for his perseverance, integrity, and kindness, Mr. Dinola is respected and adored by his peers as evidenced by their testimonies and messages during the event.