Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has set a December deadline for the cleanup of Navotas City’s Bangkulasi River, one of the filthy water bodies that drain into Manila Bay.

“Cleaning up the Bangkulasi River, which is part of the Malabon-Navotas River System, is an essential part of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program because the river system directly empties into the historic bay,” Cimatu pointed out.

The former Armed Forces chief ordered the DENR team assigned to the river system to “produce drastic improvements by December this year” in order to reduce the fecal coliform levels in Manila Bay by yearend.

The team, according to DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste and LGU Concerns Benny Antiporda, would “aim to prevent more wastes from flowing into the river system before cleaning it.”

“We are planning to use some interventions to prevent wastes from coming back to the river,” Antiporda said during a meeting with local officials of Navotas City on August 5.

In that meeting, Antiporda disclosed that the DENR will be issuing cease and desist orders against establishments that have no proper sewage treatment plants or STPs.

However, Antiporda was quick to explain that the clampdown was “not about destroying the economy of Navotas, but about waking them up to say that Navotas is a model city.”

“The Inter-Agency Task Force will also be providing the businesses with technical assistance to help them come up with solutions on how to go about with their problems on STPs,” the DENR official said.

Unlike in Boracay where businesses had to wait for months before they could operate again, Antiporda said that business owners in Navotas could “proactively coordinate with the service providers and offer solutions when needed.”

“The DENR really means business when it comes to environmental protection,” Antiporda pointed out. “Once the DENR is able to effectively deliver its message, other establishments surrounding the area will take proactive steps to ensure they will not be affected by the issuance of cease and desist orders.”

Antiporda said that a one-stop shop for Navotas business owners will be set up to help them comply with the requirements provided under various environmental laws.

The Environmental Management Bureau-National Capital Region Office and the DENR North Field Office will also help expedite the processing of environmental permits by businesses, he added. ###