Manila Bay: A Lesson Worth Repeating

In a previous post, Do Not Use the Word "Trash": A Lesson On Water Pollution, I wrote, "While it is straightforward to see why floating trash in our rivers is bad, it requires much more to appreciate how nitrates and phosphates from the fertilizers we use can have a significant impact on water quality. It is not as obvious as throwing a plastic bag into a river, but the effects can be as devastating with pollutants that we cannot see." I should add that we also need to worry about bacterial coliform that come from both human and animal waste. Picking up solid waste from a body of water is easy, removing invisible water pollutants which can be more harmful than the visible ones requires much more time and effort.

Social media have been flooded with pictures from Manila Bay showing how people working together have miraculously transformed its trash-filled shore into something less obnoxious to the eye.

Above copied from Philippines Department of Tourism video

Indeed, this is worth celebrating. However, one must be reminded that the bay remains unfit for human contact as indicated in the following figure from the Integrated Manila Bayanihan Database System:

Above copied from the
Integrated Manila Bayanihan Database System

Invisible pollutants such as nitrates and phosphates which promote algal blooms come mainly from agricultural and industrial waste. Detergents from households likewise contribute to this type of pollution. Coliform bacteria can originate from poultry, piggery and other animal farms. And of course, untreated sewage from households is a also a significant source of coliform. Thus, albeit picking up several tons of trash may seem a giant feat, the necessary steps to bring a body of water into a stage suitable for human contact obviously require a much larger political will. Farms, factories, establishments and houses, not only along the shores of a bay, but also along all the tributaries or rivers that feed into a bay, need to be placed on notice.