The recent clean-up of Manila Bay has created so much noise especially in the social media as the trolls of the administration made a political issue out of it giving emphasis on the fact that it was only under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte that finally a big number of volunteers sweeped the coastline and were able to collect eleven truck loads of garbage mostly plastic and cans.
Not long after, the Makabayan Bloc at the House of Representatives started calling to immediately end the clean-up after exposing the sinister plan of the businessmen-friends of the president headed by Davao City-based Dennis Uy to reclaim the area and put up several projects thereby affecting the urban poor living around the place.
Of course, looking at how this government has covered and executed its plans and vested interests, the Makabayan bloc has a point in their expośe but the issue is far too complex and wide. Afterall, no government has manifested so much political will in particular programs without interests and gains.
One thing is clear though, the pile of garbage on the bay is reflective of the attitude and manners of Filipinos and at the same time an indirect explanation as to why it will be hard for us to improve and achieve change no matter how good the leadership is.
Let us momentarily leave politics and personal interests behind and contextualize the garbage problem in our own backyard.
The month of January saw several festivals being celebrated around the region. We had Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Dinagyang in Iloilo City, Dinagsa in Cadiz City and other celebrations from all other places.
These celebrations showcased the colorful tradition and culture of every place dating from its original dwellers centuries past. Thousands of revelers both local and foreign flooded the streets of the mentioned places and joined the fun.
Tourism-wise, these festivals were a hit and has contributed big time economically. Unfortunately, as the festivals draw nearer, we tend to show our attitudes clearer, shameful so to speak.
We Filipinos, Ilonggos in particular do not care at all when it comes to cleanliness and hygiene. Iloilo City for example transforms itself into a biggest restroom every after Dinagyang. Maybe the organizers have failed bigtime in putting up enough portable restrooms around the crowded areas but its not even a reason to simply pee and vomit just anywhere.
Other than the stinky human fluid, the whole stretch of Iloilo City roads and junctions with events and activities happening are scattered with piles of garbage. These garbage are littered even if huge bins are provided.
Its as if keeping our own garbage is too heavy and carrying it to the nearest garbage bin is too much of a burden that our happiness and revelry would be affected if we throw it properly.
We are so used to having the people of the General Services Office clean our own mess and as if each of us paid them to stay late and start cleaning our dirt the day after, we often times have the courage to criticize them in case we see streets uncleaned the following day.
I happened to have attended several Ati-Atihan and Dinagyang celebrations and the piles of garbage scattered around the main streets and event areas exponentially increase every year.
People somehow do not care. After eating or drinking or even buying some stuff, they readily just throw the wrappers and packages anywhere. The garbage that’s piling up have become a necessary accessory to any celebration.
Interestingly, its the same faces and suspects who are the first to cry that change is not coming and criticize the government for failing to initiate change.
The Manila Bay clean-up may only just be for a show or a make-believe act in order to further political and business interests but just like in the case of Dinagyang, the fact remains, there is too much garbage around and it is will continue to pile unless we all start acting responsibly and disposing of our own shit properly.
There will be no need for massive volunteers and government or private workers and even a presidential order to clean the mess around if only every Filipino values manners and take time in disposing of their waste accordingly.
As to the real motive of President Duterte in ordering the clean-up of Manila Bay, its some how awkward to judge him. I find it unfair afterall, he is by far the only sitting leader of this country who has aggresively initiated its clean-up let alone his own personal interests and threathened closures of business establishments who have been found to have directly polluted the sea water.
Some may profit directly on the initiative of the government but its one reality that we cannot avoid. Instead, we should call on the government to strengthen its program for the urban poor so that those who have made the bay as their dwelling place and at the same time natural rest room be given an opportunity to live in a decent house and earn a decent living instead of simply waiting for alms and donations from people who pass by them each day.
I just want to say, now is the time to stop crying wolf. Let’s work on something instead.