January 30, 2019

From the crowning of Karen Gallman as Miss Intercontinental – a first-ever feat for the Philippines – to the launch of the “biggest battle of them all” to rehabilitate the world-famous Manila Bay where one gets a captivating glimpse of the golden sunset, last Sunday was historic indeed.

“This means a lot to me. This is the first time the Philippines won Miss Intercontinental, I’m so happy I could do this for the country. I’m so grateful,” Gallman told media after besting 83 other beauties from around the world.           

Gallman’s winning form was in full display as she responded during the final Q & A round: “For me, success is not just about winning in life, but setting goals, smaller goals, and achieving your dreams, and working hard for everything you want, and always looking up to God and being thankful for everything.”

The Miss Intercontinental crown bestowed on Gallman, a 26-year-old analyst from Ubay in Bohol province, came on the heels of Catriona Gray’s astounding victory last December when she won for our country a fourth Miss Universe crown. Our country also came close to winning Miss Intercontinental last year when Katarina Rodriguez emerged first runner-up.

Their amazing achievements strengthened “the Philippines’ reputation as a pageant powerhouse and Binibining Pilipinas’ status as the most prestigious pageant in the country, if not the Asian region.” Congratulations to Karen Gallman and to the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. led by Stella Marquez Araneta!

On Manila Bay, last Sunday’s historic launch of the P43-billion massive cleanup program to run until the end of President Duterte’s term in 2022 has set into motion the most ambitious and, in the words of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, the “biggest battle of them all” in the fight against environmental degradation in this part of the world.

"This is a battle that will be won not with force or arms but with the firm resolve to bring Manila Bay back to life," Cimatu stressed as he sought “the commitment and determination of every Filipino to do his share” in the extensive cleanup program that covers a total area of 1,994 kilometers extending across the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon region, including a 190 km coastline.

Commercial and industrial establishments, plus around a million informal settlers are situated along estuaries that discharge all sorts of waste into Manila Bay which has become severely polluted with a coliform level of 330 million MPN (most probable number) per 100 milliliters, with some areas at about a billion MPN – a far cry from the acceptable level of 100 MPN per 100 ml.

The degradation of Manila Bay is most obvious after any heavy downpour when tons of garbage and filth float by the breakwater along Roxas Blvd. But even without the rains, one becomes aware of the degradation by the stench emanating from all the liquefied wastes that find its way into the bay area through the water tributaries that connect to livestock farms and households that lack septic tanks.

For many people in the metropolis, improper garbage disposal has become a habit so hard to break, in spite of common knowledge that littering and indiscriminate throwing of all sorts of trash – particularly plastics and other non-biodegradable materials – end up in drainage systems, canals, esteros, and rivers affecting Manila Bay.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año has issued a memo that said: “All 178 Cities and Municipalities, and all 5,714 Barangays in the Manila Bay Watershed Area shall organize a clean-up drive which shall be conducted in areas, such as, but not limited to, coastal areas and/or inland water systems in their respective localities on a weekly basis, starting on Sunday, January 27, 2019, and every Sunday thereafter.”

It remains to be seen if such weekly cleanup wouldn’t be “ningas cogon.” But if pursued relentlessly, it might set in motion what’s sorely needed – a positive change in the mindset of Filipinos who mindlessly contribute to the environmental degradation plaguing the world-famous Manila Bay.

Email: insights.xlr8@yahoo.com