Metro Manila has a number of low areas or wetlands commonly referred to as esteros. If there are highly- populated, filthy, polluted areas in this metropolis, it is these wetland areas.
What further adds to the seriousness of the present concern is that these sites are near important landmarks of the city of Manila such as Malacanang Palace and several universities in the University Belt.
The wonder of it all is that almost everybody in Metro Manila seems to be ignoring the presence of these pockets of pollution as if they do not exist at all. Yet, when one travels in the city and happens to pass by these ugly, foul-smelling, heavily-polluted (with trash, garbage, domestic wastes) sites that serve as indicator of environmental neglect, he cannot ignore them because, like the malodorous Manila Bay, they are in a real sense an insult to our reputation as a people.
Before I proceed any further, let me confess that having served as the Secretary of the Department of Environment & Natural Resources in 1992-1995, I regret I was not able to do something about these sites.
Our attention then was focused on fighting a losing battle to stop illegal logging in our rainforests.
But let us not talk much about what were not done in the past. The more important thing is to clean up these polluted sites.
I believe there are many expert people who know about sanitation and drainage systems. Poor drainage or lack of drainage to the sea or to the Pasig River appears to the main reason for the stagnant water in these wetlands.
Do we need an explanation why dengue fever is rampant around areas with dirty, stagnant water? People in the vicinity throw their household wastes into the water below their houses, worsening the drainge and pollution problems.
In the past and even at present, many greedy developers have made money by building structures on reclaimed creeks, obstructing normal drainage to Manila Bay.
This reflects an utter ignorance or disregard of the natural functions of wetlands. Why were they allowed to do so?
Now, it appears next to impossible to do something about lapses in the past. But is it?
President Noy has shown that it can be done. If by just a single pronouncement, he was able to stop the much abused wang-wang habit, there is no reason why the esteros, canals and creeks of Metro Manila cannot be cleaned and cleared for easy drainage to the sea.
But the agencies of government tasked with proper drainage should put their skills to action. They better do so; if they do not, people in the provinces will follow suit.