Manila, Philippines — Various government agencies have signed a declaration of commitment in support of achieving a shared vision for the Manila Bay. The signing highlighted the first Manila Bay Coordinating Committee (MBCC) Meeting held on 28 January in Pasay City. The MBCC meeting was chaired by the Honorable Jose L. Atienza Jr., Secretary of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).The covenant calls for the committed action of various agencies, local government units and stakeholders to revive the bay by addressing pollution and resource depletion in Manila Bay. Agencies' respective actions required under the covenant range from providing funds for saving Manila Bay to controlling fishing and establishing wastewater treatment facilities within the area.These signatory agencies include the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Interior and Local Government, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), Local Water Utilities Administration, Metro Manila Development Authority, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police - Maritime Group and the Philippine Ports Authority.PEMSEA, represented by Prof. Raphael P.M. Lotilla, Executive Director of the PEMSEA Resource Facility also signified PEMSEA's commitment to conserving the Bay.Secretary Atienza highlighted the significance of the meeting in view of the Supreme Court's landmark decision on 28 December 2008. The Supreme Court ruled that the 12 government agencies mentioned in the petition must "devise a consolidated, coordinated and concerted scheme of action for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay." The DENR was directed to fully implement its Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (OPMBCS) for the rehabilitation, protection and preservation of the bay. The OPMBCS is a product of the Manila Bay Environmental Management Project (MBEMP), which PEMSEA supported from 2000-2007. The OPMBCS serves as a road map for the management and protection of Manila Bay and its watershed areas.During the meeting, Secretary Atienza presented the issues and concerns in the bay, the challenges and the need for immediate action. He emphasized the need for a concerted effort to clean and rehabilitate Manila Bay and called on the responsible government agencies as well as the various local government units surrounding the Manila Bay area to put their acts together.The meeting also discussed the following key areas:Dismantling of fish pens - The DENR ordered the dismantling of illegal structures along Manila Bay, including fish pens and fish cages that have no permits from the local governments. Dismantling operations started last year in Cavite in close coordination with Governor Erineo Maliksi, and are being expanded to cover the waters off Parañaque and Las Piñas. With the combined forces of various agencies, it is anticipated that the effort would be sustained, eventually allowing the free flow of water and prevent it from further degradation. In Laguna de Bay, it is reported that fish pens that have no permits already occupy around 40,000 hectares of the bay. The increasing number of illegal settlers occupying the west lake likewise compound the problem.Wastewater treatment facilities - Appeals were made to the two water concessionaires, Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Co., to accelerate the construction of wastewater treatment facilities, considering that the pollution problem in Manila Bay can be traced to the discharges from households, factories and other business establishments that fringe the Bay. The original target of both concessionaires is to have 40 percent coverage by 2025. After recent negotiations by DENR, the two concessionaires agreed to accelerate the provision of sewerage facilities to 40 percent by 2016, five years before the concessionaire's contracts will expire.Ban on commercial fishing - In response to a resolution from the Regional Development Council regarding banning commercial fishing in Manila Bay, BFAR committed to the enforcement of a five-year closed season for commercial fishing in Manila through an Administrative Order. The closing of Manila Bay to commercial fishing is anticipated to revive the fish stocks contributing to an increase in food availability.DENR will be calling for regular coordination meetings with the concerned agencies to ensure that the plan of action is implemented in accordance with the agreed targets and timeline.Manila Bay has a surface area of about 1,800 km2 and a coastline of around 190 km running along parts of National Capital Region, the country's leading urban hub, as well as the provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan and Cavite.