The writ of mandamus of the Supreme Court

The rehabilitation of Manila Bay is a continuing effort of the government in compliance with the Writ of Mandamus issued by the Supreme Court on December 18, 2008. Under the Order, the SC directed 13 agencies of the government, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), “to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve the Bay, and restore and maintain its water to Class SB level – fit for swimming, skin diving, and other forms of contact recreation.”

The SC specifically tasked the DENR to fully implement its Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (OPMBCS) and to call for regular meetings with concerned government departments and agencies to ensure the successful implementation of the OPMBCS, in accordance with its indicated completion schedules.

The OPMBCS is a document containing the action plans and programs to implement the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (MBCS), including the lessons learned from the implementation of the Manila Bay Environmental Management Project (MBEMP). It also contains the estimated budgetary requirements and timeframe.

Launch of the ‘Battle for Manila Bay’

On orders of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, then DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu launched the ‘Battle for Manila Bay’ on January 27, 2019 at the Baywalk area along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. The launch was attended by officials and employees from ‘mandamus’ agencies, local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila, academe and students, environmental groups and other stakeholders. Simultaneous cleanup activities were also conducted in various parts of the Manila Bay region in Pampanga, Cavite and Metro Manila.

Creation of the Manila Bay Task Force

Following the launching, Pres. Duterte issued Administrative Order No. 16 on February 19, 2019, which calls for the expeditious rehabilitation and restoration of the coastal and marine ecosystem of the Manila Bay. The presidential order also formally created the Manila Bay Task Force, naming the DENR secretary as the chair, and the secretaries of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) as vice chairpersons.

The Order enumerates the powers and functions of the task force. These include the enforcement of relevant provisions of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 856 or the “Code on Sanitation of the Philippines,” as amended; Republic Act (RA) No. 9275 (Clean Water Act), and RA No. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act); require all establishments, whether government or private, including subdivisions, condominiums, hospitals, etc. to immediately connect to available sewerage systems or to construct individual sewerage treatment plants (STPs); and undertake remedial measures using engineering and technological interventions to improve the Bay’s water quality, particularly to reduce coliform level in all major river systems and tributaries within the Manila Bay Region.

The 5-year Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program

The five-year rehabilitation program for Manila Bay under the Duterte administration comes in three (3) phases, as follows:

Phase 1- Cleanup/Water Quality Improvement

    • Cleanup of designated estero and waterways;
    • Reduction of fecal coliform level and toxic discharges from households and establishments;
    • Inspection and repair of leaks in old sewer lines;
    • Provision of temporary sanitation facilities to informal settlers residing along esteros and shorelines prior relocation;
    • Implementation of solid waste management; and
    • Start planning for the relocation of informal settlers.

Phase 2 – Rehabilitation and Resettlement

    • Rehabilitation of old sewer lines in NCR (ensuring completion of 340 million liters per day (MLD) of Maynilad and Manila Water by 2022; and
    • Relocation of informal settlers. 

Phase 3 – Protection and Sustainment

    • Continuing environmental education of citizens to protect the gains;
    • Sustained law enforcement and monitoring; and
    • Fast tracking/earlier completion of the sewerage system in Metro Manila from 2037 to 2026.

Profile of Manila Bay

Manila Bay is not only a historical icon to the Filipino people, but also a marine jewel that continues to contribute substantially to the national economy. Located at the southwest portion of Luzon, facing the West Philippine Sea, Manila Bay’s surface area measures around 199 square kilometers (199,400 hectares).  It encompasses eight (8) provinces, 178 LGUs, some 5,714 barangays in Regions 3 (Central Luzon), 4-A (CALABARZON) and the National Capital Region (NCR).  Its coastline runs 190 kilometers, with at least 17 major river systems in the three regions draining to the Bay.

There are three (3) major river systems situated within the jurisdiction of the National Capital Region (NCR), more popularly known as Metropolitan Manila (MM).  These are the Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tinajeros (NMTT) River System, Pasig-Marikina-San Juan (PAMARISAN) River System, and the Muntinlupa-Parañaque-Las Piñas-Zapote (MUNTIPARLASPIZAP) River System.

Restructuring of DENR NCR

            Faced with the challenges of rehabilitating the Manila Bay and its tributaries and the need to bring DENR programs and services to Metro Manila residents, then DENR Secretary Cimatu issued DENR Administrative Order No. 2019-02 creating four (4) Field Offices in the DENR NCR organizational structure.  These include the North Field Office (NFO), which covers the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela, also referred to as the CA-MA-NA-VA area.  The East Field Office (EFO), which covers the cities of Marikina, Pasig and Quezon City. The West Field Office (WFO), whose area of jurisdiction includes the cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Pasay and San Juan; and the South Field Office (SFO) covering the cities of Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Parañaque and Taguig, and the municipality of Pateros. 

Metropolitan Environmental Officer in NCR

Cognizance of the need to further intensify the implementation of environmental laws in urban areas, particularly the ecological solid management law in NCR, as well as strengthen the rehabilitation and restoration programs, projects and activities on Manila Bay, another restructuring in the DENR ensued this year.  

DENR Administrative Order No. 2021-39 issued by former DENR chief Cimatu on December 15, 2022 did not only effectively strengthened the powers and authority of the former DENR NCR Field Offices, it also renamed them into Metropolitan Environmental Offices or MEOs.  The MEOs were detached from the organizational structure of the regional office and became part of the DENR-OSEC and placed under the supervision of the Undersecretary for Field Operations.  Each MEO (now called North MEO, East MEO, West MEO and South MEO) is headed by a Director.

Meanwhile, the DENR NCR is mandated in the same Order, to continue to “exercise all the functions enumerated under Section 21 of EO 192 and EO 292, including all quasi-judicial functions such administrative adjudication.


Activities and Accomplishments

Phase I- Cleanup/Water Quality Improvement

To address solid waste, the following activities were conducted since 2019 by the Regional Office, with support from the four (4) field offices, now called Metropolitan Environmental Offices (MEOs). It should be stressed that the MEOs, under DENR Administrative Order No. 2021-39, are also called upon to”institutionalize existing mechanisms” in the implementation of the Writ of Continuing Mandamus for Manila Bay, to include rehabilitation and restoration programs, projects and activities.

1.  Regular cleanup

From 2019 to 2021, the DENR NCR was able to conduct a total of 1,726 cleanup activities, participated by at least 50,639 cleanup volunteers, and resulting in the collection of 165,288 sacks of mixed wastes.  At 30 kilos per sack, the total waste collection would weigh a total of 4,958,643 kilograms, which would otherwise add up to the pollution load of Manila Bay if no cleanup had been done (see Table 1 below for details).

Table 1.  Regular cleanup activities spearheaded by DENR NCR from CY 2019 – 2021.

No. of cleanup
No. of pax
Total waste collected (sack)
Total waste collected (kgs)

2.  Special cleanup

The special cleanup is intended to rid Metro Manila’s rivers and waterways of water hyacinth.  Water hyacinth is an invasive aquatic plant species that proliferates during the west monsoon season or ‘habagat’ that usually peak during the months of July to November.  The water hyacinth is observed to grow in large colonies, and could block the flow of water along rivers and waterways.  Thus, the DENR NCR is addressing the problem head on.  Last year, it has undertaken three (3) important measures:  manual removal of water hyacinth, assessment and identification of hotspot areas/waterways or where the plants were observed to be proliferating, and deployment of drone to survey the extent of water hyacinth infestation in at least five (5) identified hotspot sites.

a. Manual removal of water hyacinth

From August to November 19, 2021, the Field Offices were able to carry out a total of 365 special cleanup activities, with support from a total of 15,203 volunteers that resulted in the collection of 67,325 sacks of water hyacinth. 

b. Hotspot areas/waterways for water hyacinth

Per assessment of the MEOs, the following have been identified as hotspot areas for water hyacinth: Catmon River, Tullahan River and Polo River within the jurisdiction of North MEO; Marikina River covered by East MEO; Baywalk area and Baseco by West MEO; and Tripa de Gallina, Pateros River, Tipas River and Alabang-Cupang River, all within coverage of South MEO.

c. Drone survey of water hyacinth infestation

The regional office has also dispatched a technical survey team last year to assess the extent of water hyacinth proliferation using drone.  Table 2 below shows the findings from the drone survey in terms of aggregate area covered by the water hyacinth.

Table 2.  Area covered by water hyacinth based on drone survey.

Hotspot Area
Aggregate Areacovered by water hyacinth(sq.m.)
Manggahan Floodway
Napindan Channel
Labasan River
Labasan Pumping Station Reservoir
Catmon River


3.  Monitoring and patrolling of waterways

The SC mandamus order centers on improving the Bay’s water quality to SB level, which is hinged on several factors, including the cleanliness of the tributaries from solid waste and the water quality that these tributaries drain to the Bay. To achieve these, the DENR also launch the “Battle for Rivers and Esteros” while the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued a directive requiring all barangays in the Bay region to undertake weekly cleanup activities.  For its part, the DENR NCR fielded teams of “bike patrollers” from field offices.

For the past two (2) years, the Field Offices, never failed to monitor and patrol the waterways of Metro Manila, which number 416.  It should be clarified the total number of waterways monitored and patrolled by DENR NCR is higher as compared to MMDA’s list of 279, as long waterways are re-counted anew each time these traverses beyond the area of jurisdiction of the barangay (see Table 3 below for details).

Table 3.  Number of waterways monitored/patrolled by MEOs.

Metropolitan Environmental Office (MEO)
Number of waterways monitored and patrolled under Manila Bay Program
North MEO
East MEO
West MEO
South MEO

4.  Hiring and deployment of Estero Rangers

The concept of Estero Rangers revolves on the idea that residents must actively participate in the development of their waterways, especially in ensuring their cleanliness.  After all, they are also responsible and accountable, to a certain extent, in dirtying their respective waterways.  As laid out in the plan, the Estero Rangers shall come from the community/barangay that host the estero/waterway, and to be sure, they need to be endorsed by the barangay captain. 

The primary tasks of an Estero Ranger are 1.  to keep their assigned waterways free of any floating garbage; 2. to closely monitor the condition of their assigned waterways and report any illegal discharge and other activities that would contribute to the worsening condition of the waterways; and 3. to protect the gains or improvements made on the waterways, such as but not limited to, installed trash traps, trash nets and other engineering interventions provided to the barangays.

In 2019, the first year of the Manila Bay rehabilitation, a total of 1,812 Estero Rangers were hired and deployed by the EMB NCR.  The following year, in 2020, the DENR NCR took the reign, especially with the operationalization of the four (4) Field Offices under the DENR NCR structure.  For CY 2020, the number of Estero Rangers hired reached 1,235 but only 1,163 were actively working, as of November 5, 2020.   Total wastes collected during the year totaled 30,259 sacks, with equivalent weight of about 907,770 kilos.

In 2021, the number of hired and deployed Estero Rangers every quarter varies from 1,333 in the first quarter to 1,426 in the last quarter of the year.  The ERs were deployed in 416 waterways situated in 765 barangays throughout the 17 local government units in the metropolis.  Total waste collections during year reached 507,475 sacks.

5.  Provision of engineering interventions to LGUs/barangays

In support to Metro Manila LGUs, especially the barangays, the DENR NCR continues to provide engineering interventions or technologies to enhance their respective solid waste management programs.  These interventions are all covered by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DENR NCR and the recipient-barangay/LGU.  The MOA defines the roles and responsibilities of the parties to ensure the proper use and maintenance of the technologies to maximize their utilization.  From 2019 to 2021, the DENR NCR was able to install and/or distribute eight (8) kinds of engineering interventions, all totaling 1,031 units (see Table 4 below for details).

Table 4.  Different engineering interventions/technologies provided by DENR NCR to LGUs/barangays of Metro Manila.

Quantity per Year
Trash bin
274 sets/822 pcs
274 sets/ 822 pcs
Trash collector raft
- Prototype 1
- Prototype 2
- Prototype 3
- Prototype 4
Trash net
Waste collector trike
Trash Trap
Biogas digester
Natural water circulation system
Trash collector cart

6.  Monitoring of LGU waste collections

With the unexpected increase in the volume of medical wastes from households and establishments, particularly health facilities in Metro Manila, the DENR NCR through its Field Offices, had been monitoring the solid waste management of LGUs since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic.  Unfortunately, the submission of LGU reports was not without challenges as a consequence of limited “workforce” on the ground.  Despite this, Table 5 provides us a peek into the volume of soild waste generated per LGU for the past two (2) years.

Table 5.  Annual waste collection of LGUs per monitoring by DENR NCR during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Total waste collected(cubic meter)
March to December 2020
Jan- December 2021

7.  Water quality monitoring

       a.  Regular water quality monitoring stations

Even prior to the launching of the ‘Battle for Manila Bay,’ the EMB NCR has already been conducting water quality sampling in the Bay area, but on a limited scale.  Three years into the Manila Bay rehabilitation, a total of 440 water quality sampling stations have already been established by the EMB NCR in strategic areas of this water body famous for its golden sunset.

The past two (2) years though of the Covid-19 pandemic led the agency to prioritize its water quality monitoring activities, including a total halt in undertaking the water sampling activities in areas declared as high risk for the Covid-19, and in keeping with the IATF guidelines.

Starting this year, the NCR office of EMB continues to keep a regulated schedule of its water quality monitoring activities, as indicated in Table 6 below.

Table 6.  Water quality monitoring priorities of EMB NCR in 2022.

Frequency of Water Quality Monitoring
Name of Sampling Station
No. of Station
1.  Daily
1.  Dolomite stations inside silt curtain
2.  Dolomite stations outside silt curtain
3.  HDPE outfalls (surface)
4.  US Embassy stations
5.  Remedios stations
6.  Beach nourishment area
7.  MMDA outfall stations
8.  Rizal Park Hotel stations
2.  Weekly
1.  HDPE outfalls
(stratified sampling)
2. MB bathing area
3.  Estero Fort San Antonio de Abad
4.  Manila Yacht Club STP
3.  Monthly
1.  MB bathing beaches
2.  MB river outfalls
3.  San Juan River System WQMA
4.  Malabon-Navotas-Tullahan-Tinajeros River System WQMA
5.  Las Piñas-Parañaque River System WQMA
6.  Meycauayan-Valenzuela River System
7.  Marikina River
8.  Philippine Navy to MARINA
9.  Baseco beachfront and lagoon
10.  Outfalls within Baywalk vicinity
4.  Quarterly
1.  Manila Bay offshore with EMB Regions III, IV-A
2.  Adopt-an-Estero/ Waterbody Program (AEWBP)* – c/o MEOs
3.  Estero de Marala – c/o MEO
4.  Estero de Magdalena – c/o MEO
5.  Estero de Vitas- c/o MEO
6.  Estero de Sunog Apog – c/o MEO
7.  Manila North Harbor – c/o MEO
8.  Manila South Harbor – c/o MEO
9.  Navotas River Shipyard – c/o MEO
10. Navotas Breakwater Shipyard – c/o MEO
11.  Tanza Marine Tree Park – c/o MEO
12.  Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Eco-tourism Area – c/o MEO
13.  BFCT culverts/outfalls

b. Real-time water quality monitoring equipment

In CY 2020, four (4) units of Water Quality Monitoring Equipment (WQME) with buoy were installed in four (4) strategic sites in Manila Bay, namely:  Manila Baywalk, Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (now called Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park), BASECO beachfront in Manila, and at Tanza Marine Tree Park in Navotas City (see Figure 1 for the relative location of installed WQMEs).

 The WQME is intended to augment the EMB NCR’s current network of water quality monitoring stations in the Bay area within the NCR. It is designed to provide real-time water quality monitoring, which becomes crucial in times of environmental emergencies like fish kills, oil spills, algal bloom, illegal discharges, to cite a few.  The WQME is also capable of undertaking continual offshore testing, providing therefore a better estimate of the water quality compared to land-based sampling methods, which are considered vulnerable to anthropogenic interventions.  The equipment is also capable of collecting data from the waters of the Bay without any need for physical sampling or human intervention, thereby reducing the risks from Covid 19. All four units are capable of providing real-time data every 10 minutes or at any specified setting.

Figure 1.  Relative location of four Water Quality Monitoring Equipment.


Phase II – Rehabilitation and resettlement

Easement recovery

To hasten the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, it is important to understand the rationale behind the effort of the government to recover the legal easements of waterways, as these are “for public use in the general interest of navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage” (Article 638, Republic Act No. 386).   Relative to this, and in view of its mandate and available technical expertise, the DENR NCR takes the lead in the conduct of drone mapping to produce a base map that will be used for easement recovery.

Specifically, drone mapping seeks to determine the original and actual course and width of waterways, the legal easement along waterways and the actual or physical status of the land covered by the easement, such as the location of informal settler-families (ISFs), the private properties that have encroached the legal easement or the waterway, or both.

Despite the health emergency situation in the country, with the NCR as the ground zero for Covid-19 pandemic, the DENR NCR was able to undertake drone mapping in 32 waterways in the metropolis, covering more than 148 kilometers of legal easements.  The total includes the drone mapping of the legal easement of the Marikina River within the NCR area of jurisdiction, with length of about 21.795 kilometers.  The easement recovery effort in Marikina River was  in support to the Marikina River Restoration Program of the Task Force-Build Back Better (TF-BBB) created under Executive Order (EO) No. 120.

Back in 2019, the regional office prioritized the boundary survey of the Baseco Compound in the city of Manila in relation to Proclamation No. 145, series of 2002, and the demarcation of the 10-meter legal easment of the Pasig River spanning 1.2- kilometers, and the 20-meter salvage zone of the Manila Bay near the Baseco Compound, which runs 1.8-kilometers long.

Tagging, Census and Validation of ISFs in Parola and Baseco

The resettlement of informal settler-families (ISFs) away from the waterways has two-pronged objectives.  One, to address water pollution, particularly in waterways that drain directly to Manila Bay. Two, to transfer the ISFs to safer grounds as the impact of climate change is getting intense through the years.   In this context, the DENR NCR, through its Executive Director Jacqueline A. Caancan inked an agreement with NHA NCR Regional Manager for West Sector Luz Evangelista, for the conduct of tagging, census and validation (TCV) in Baseco Compound and Parola, both located in the city of Manila, in October 2020.

The TCV would involve a total of 2,520 ISFs, of whom 2,000 would come from the Baseco Compound, and the balance of 520 ISFs from Parola to Delpan Bridge, specifically from Barangay 275 (400 ISFs) and Barangay 286 (120 ISFs). 

a. Parola Compound

The NHA proceeded with the TCV of ISFs from Parola to Delpan Bridge from July 27 to August 9, 2021. The subject easement, which spans 3,000 meters, was already surveyed in 2019 by the DENR NCR technical team.  One of the team’s findings confirmed the presence of ISFs along the river’s legal easement, from its mouth to Delpan Bridge in Tondo, Manila.  Table 7 below shows the result of the TCV conducted by the NHA in Parola.

Table 7. Results of TCV in Parola, Manila.



Phase III- Protection and Sustainment

Habitat and ecosystem management

1.  Rehabilitating Baseco lagoon through phytoremediation

Phytoremediation is a technology that uses live plants to decontaminate polluted soil and water.  Mangrove is a promising species for phytoremediation because it is known to filter sediments and its above-ground root network serves to shelter estuarine species.  A mature mangrove stand is also attributed to reduce the impact of wave action and typhoons to the benefit of coastal communities like Baseco.    Baseco is a coastal barangay in the city of Manila facing the Manila Bay, which make it highly vulnerable to natural calamities.  Aside from mangroves and mangrove associate species, broad-leaf tree species and bamboos were also planted in the lagoon area and vicinity.

From 2019 to 2021, a total of 10,451 seedlings of mangrove, mangrove-associated, beach, and bamboo species were planted at Baseco’s 2.8-hectare lagoon area. To monitor and ensure the protection of the new plantations, the DENR NCR has reconstructed an old boardwalk in the lagoon area.  The 289-meter boardwalk has four (4) view decks.  A 140-meter perimeter fence was also installed to protect the mangroves and prevent the dumping of solid waste in the lagoon area.

2.  Maintenance of mangrove plantations and other tree species at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park

Since 2014, only replacement planting was allowed at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP) to avoid further encroachment of mangroves on other habitats. For this reason, the regional office focused its effort on maintaining the more than 7,000 mangrove and nipa saplings planted at the LPPWP since 2008.  This is on top of the 18,657 mangrove trees that were already present in the area.  Furthermore, there are at least 3,844 saplings of 57 tree species, some 1,302 wildlings of 29 species, and a total of 3,910 mangrove propagules that were being maintained as well at the on-site nursery.

The wetland park also boasts of a bambusetum which serves as an ex-situ conservation facility for native and endemic bamboo species, especially those with threatened conservation status.   Around 303 clumps of bamboos across 12 species were being maintained in the bambusetum, thereby enhancing the protected area’s floral biodiversity and ecotourism value.  It is worth stressing that bamboo is effective in erosion control due to its widespread root system, and is known to help in mitigating water pollution due to its high nitrogen content. 

3.  Mangrove enrichment planting in Tanza Marine Tree Park, Navotas City

A total of 1,654 healthy mangrove seedlings were planted in 2021 at the Tanza Marine Tree Park in Navotas City.  Specifically, the enrichment planting was done in Blocks 1, 3, 4 and 6, to replace dead and damaged mangroves due to fires and typhoons in the past.

4.  Expanding phytoremediation efforts in other waterways

In addition to Baseco lagoon, the DENR NCR collaborated with other barangays in 2021 for a series of site assessments of waterways where phytoremediation could be applied.  Five (5) areas were found to be suitable, namely Tullahan – Malabon River in Barangay Tañong, Malabon City; San Juan River in Barangay Talayan, Quezon City;  Ilang-Ilang Creek  in Barangay North Fairview, Quezon City;  Estero de Valencia in Barangay 421 and  in Barangay 423, both in the City of Manila. 

5.  Landscape Development

Another project pursued in 2021 was a landscaping development project in four (4) sites, including Estero dela Reina in Brgy. 8, Manila; Tullahan River in Brgy. Maysilo, Malabon City; Mabuhay Creek in Brgy. Sta. Lucia, Pasig City; and Manggahan Floodway in Brgy. Manggahan, also in Pasig City. As this project calls for a sustained engagement of the LGUs, particularly in the protection and maintenance of developed sites, a Memorandum of Agreement was forged by the DENR NCR, represented by RED Caancan, with the concerned LGUs on November 26, 2021. To prepare the LGUs for the eventual turnover of the completed project sites, a series of capacity building activities were conducted through online seminars or webinars on arboriculture, bamboo propagation, and hydroponics.

6.  Pasig-Marikina River Tributary Rehabilitation (TF-BBB)

As the lead agency for KRA 6 (Intensified Watershed Management) of Task Force- Build Back Better, the DENR NCR started the restoration of the riparian ecosystem through bamboo planting to complement the engineering interventions of DPWH.  Bamboo is fast-growing, and its woven root system helps stabilize the streambanks.  Bamboo is also known to have a high-water storage capacity that could contribute to regulating flooding.

To date, a total of 4,305 seedlings of bamboo and other indigenous tree species have been planted by the DENR NCR, covering 4,950 meters of the river.  This was achieved through community participation.  Further, the Office hired Estero/Green Rangers to protect and maintain the newly planted seedlings, with support from the LGU and concerned barangays.

Avifauna monitoring

1.  Asian Waterbird Census

The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is an annual event that takes place on the second and third weeks of January.  The Philippines is a mainstay in this annual event, as it is a part of the East Asia-Australasian Flyway (EAAF).  The network of wetlands in the country, including Manila Bay, serves as important resting stops for migrating birds of the EAAF.  The DENR NCR spearheads the conduct of AWC, in partnership with the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP).

In 2019, there were only four (4) wetlands in NCR included in the conduct of AWC.  These were the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), now called Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP); Tanza Marine Tree Park in Navotas City, Barangays Tagalag and Pulong Diablo in Valenzuela City and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Aerodrome in Pasay City, which inclusion was purposely intended to monitor bird strikes. In all four sites, a total of  9,655 individual birds, across 44 species, were counted at that time, with the Whiskered Tern as the most abundant species.

In 2020, Baseco/Brgy. 649 in Manila was included as additional new site for the AWC.  Meanwhile. Brgy. Malanday in Valenzuela replaced Pulong Diablo. LPPWP, TMTP, NAIA and Brgy. Tagalag in Valenzuela City were retained as regular AWC sites.   Total bird counts for year in the said six sites reached 7,176 across 48 species

Last year, 2021, a substantial increase, both in terms of individual bird count and species were recorded in seven (7) sites, including Roxas Blvd. in Manila.  Overall, the count reached 12,888 across 58 species.  Also noteworthy of mentioning are the following findings for the year under review:

The endemic Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula poliocephala) was sighted for the first time at the LPPWP.  The bird is classified as a “near threatened” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of its moderately small population.  It is suspected to be in a moderately rapid decline status due to hunting and the removal of its favored lowland forest habitat, according to Birdlife International.

The year 2021 was also a significant year for birds at the Tanza Marine Tree Park

(TMTP) and its surrounding mudflats. Over 24 new species were recorded in the area,          including the first Philippine record of one Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), and new records of rare migrants like the Common Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna), Oriental Plover (Charadrius veredus), and a lone critically endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi).

2.  Quarterly Avifauna Monitoring (2019-2021)

Aside from the annual Asian Waterbird Census, the DENR NCR also conducts quarterly bird monitoring as part of DENR’s priority program on enhanced biodiversity management. In 2019, same sites where the AWC was conducted were revisited on a quarterly basis by the DENR NCR team for further bird monitoring.  During these visits, a total of 22,010 bird individuals across 26 species were monitored. 

On the following year, however, due to the threat of Covid-19, the activity was limited to LPPWP only, which resulted in 117 bird individuals across 17 species were monitored. And, in the 4th quarter of the year, bird monitoring was carried out only at LPPWP and NAIA sites, registering a total 4,241 across 30 species, and 583 across 16 species, respectively.

For the year 2021, a total of 7,851 across 52 species were monitored in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters of the year, broken down as follows: 2,112 across 29 species in Q2 at LPPWP, Roxas Blvd. in Manila, and NAIA.  For the 3rd quarter, a total of 642 birds across 15 species were monitored at LPPWP, TMTP, Brgy. Tagalag and Pulong Diablo, both in Valenzuela City.  And for the 4th quarter, all seven sites were monitored, with a total of 5,097 birds monitored across 52 species.

Partnership and governance

a. Adopt-an-Estero/Waterbody Program (ATI)

The ‘Adopt-an-Estero/Waterbody Program’ (AEWP) was conceived in 2010 by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), a line agency under the DENR, to provide an avenue to pursue a collaborative undertaking between and among the estero community, local government unit or barangay, donor-partner establishments and the DENR through the EMB, to clean up the rivers and other waterways of solid wastes, debris and silt. 

In 2019, the DENR NCR, with support from EMB NCR, enhanced the AEWP within the context of the Manila Bay rehabilitation and restoration effort.  Specifically, the program is currently being pursued to control the pollution that ends up in the Bay’s shoreline, in compliance with the mandamus order of the Supreme Court to improve Manila Bay’s water quality within SB standards.

Second, the roles of all the parties involved in the program are identified and strengthened through a memorandum of agreement (MOA).   Finally, the estero residents are being empowered to take charge in the development of their waterways by enlisting them not only in the actual cleanup but also in the preparation and implementation of work programs and activities for the adopted waterway.  Data from the EMB NCR indicates the number of waterways placed under the AEWP since 2010 now totals 57, with 62 adopters. 

Among the important support provided to the program is the establishment of a total of 139 water quality sampling stations by the EMB NCR in the adopted waterways. Another is, unless otherwise declared as high risk to Covid-19, the EMB NCR conducts ambient water quality monitoring in the adopted waterways on a quarterly basis.

It is also worth mentioning that under the AEWP, the Asian Terminals, Inc. (ATI) has built and donated a three-door toilet facility in Baseco Compound in Manila, specifically catering to some 350 households in Aplaya Block I. 

b. Gawad Taga-ilog: Search for Most Improved Estero in Metro Manila

Amid the challenges brought about by Covid-19 pandemic, cleanup efforts along esteros and others waterways went continuously by host-barangays but with caution in adherence to the minimum health and safety protocols.  Such effort and commitment to public service did not go unnoticed by the DENR NCR.

In the last quarter of CY 2020, the DENR NCR launched the Gawad Taga-ilog Search for Most Improved Estero in Metro Manila.  It was conceived primarily to give recognition to the local government units, particularly the barangays, for taking an extra mile of keeping their waterways clean and trash-free, in support to on-going the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program. 

The initial search was concluded with the declaration of Lingunan Creek in Valenzuela City as the “most improved estero in Metro Manila.”  It was also given the “People’s Choice” award for having garnered the most number of “like” and “heart” reactions from the followers of DENR NCR Facebook.

First runner-up in the said competition was Park Creek 22 in Marikina City, while the second runner-up was the Bangkulasi River in Navotas City.  The winners received cash rewards as well as plaques of recognition during the awarding ceremony held March 9, 2021 at the BMB amphitheater at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

Heartened by the warm reception of the LGUs, the regional office has declared the Gawad Taga-ilog as an annual event.  In the ensuing year, the Gawad Taga-ilog 2.0 was carried out.  This time, the “most improved estero in Metro Manila” for CY 2021 was Estero de San Miguel in Barangay 412 in Manila.  The other winners are: Estero Tripa de Gallina in Brgy. 143, Pasay City, and Brgy. San Isidro, Makati City (1st prize); Park Creek 23 in Brgy. Marikina Heights, Marikina City (2nd prize); Polo River in Valenzuela City (3rd prize) and Zapote River in Las Piñas Cit (4th prize).  The awarding was held on May 22, 2022, coinciding with World Water Day, held at Park Inn by Radisson EDSA North in Quezon City.

c. Recognizing partners in the rehabilitation of Manila Bay

A key to ensuring the sustainability of the projects and activities under the Manila Bay program is to secure active partnerships between and among agencies of the government, including LGUs and barangays, the private sector and the people.  To cite, the DENR NCR forges agreements with recipient-barangays of engineering interventions to ensure their safety and proper use. MOAs are used as a tool to formalize multi-sectoral agreements under the ‘Adopt-an-Ester/Waterbody Program.’

Last year, the DENR NCR entered into partnerships with the following agencies of the government and non-government entities, for varied objectives and purposes:

1.  Climate Change Services and Manila Bay Coordinating Office (MBCO), both of DENR-OSEC, for the conduct of Social Behavioral Change Communications to assess the knowledge and awareness of residents living along the waterways.

2. Under the Project E-Smart, the DENR NCR provided the necessary data for the datasets on ecosystem modelling and materials transport analysis for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

3. A memorandum of Understanding was also inked by the DENR NCR with BEST, Inc. and IPM Group for the promotion of the “Trash to Cash Back Program” in the DENR NCR and its Field Offices.  The project calls for the surrender of recyclables to earn Environmental Points, which could, in turn, be used to redeem products from accredited merchants.

4. The DENR NCR has collaborated with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for the design and development of trash skimmer in light of the effort to clear rivers and waterways of water hyacinth.

5.  Talks were also initiated between the DENR NCR and the PNP-Maritime Group for the deployment of uniformed personnel in hotspot areas for water hyacinth removal.

6.  Taking note of the exposure of Estero Rangers (ER) to the risks of Covid-19, the regional office has partnered with Maynilad Water Services, Inc., a private water concessionaire, for the provision of PPE and other safety gears to ERs.

Furthermore, the DENR NCR has resumed last year its MANILA BAYanihan Stakeholder Partnership Recognition Program.  This is to show its gratitude to its partners both in the public and private sectors for their invaluable contributions in advancing the cause of Manila Bay rehabilitation, as well as for other priority programs of Department such as the National Greening Program, Biodiversity Conservation, Solid Waste Management, to cite a few.

A total of 32 organizations were honored in a simple ceremony held at the Park Inn Hotel by Radisson in Quezon City on December 17, 2021, to highlight the observance of the National Volunteer Month and to celebrate the anniversary of the issuance of the Writ of Continuing Mandamus for Manila Bay by the Supreme Court.  The mandamus was issued on December 18, 2008, and it is considered a landmark decision on environmental protection in the country.

Among the honorees cited for their contribution relating to the Manila Bay rehabilitation include nine (9) private entities (see Table 8 for details).

Table 8.  Partners in the private sector recognized for their support in the Manila Bay rehabilitation in 2021.

Contribution to Manila Bay Rehabilitation
1. Asian Terminals, Inc.
Construction of a 3-door communal toilet facility in Baseco/Brgy. 649, Manila.
2. Villar Sipag Foundation
Biodiversity conservation program in Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park
3. Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
Biodiversity conservation program in Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park
4. Society in the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands
Biodiversity conservation program in Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park
5. SM Prime Holdings, Inc.
Provision of technical equipment in support of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program
6. Rotary Club of Rockwell Makati
Commitment to information dissemination on proper solid waste management
7. Water Environment Association of the Philippines, Inc.
Provision of support to the Gawad Taga-ilog Project under the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program
8. Basic Environmental Systems and Technologies, Inc.
Installation of a ‘buy-back’ center for recyclable materials at the National Ecology Center under the ‘Trash-to-Cash-Back’ project, in support of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program 
9. Envirokonsult Equipment and  Services, Inc.
Provision of support to the Gawad Taga-ilog Project under the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program