Hundreds of dead fish started floating to the surface of Manila Bay near the Baseco compound in Manila Bay Thursday morning, September 17, after a night of heavy rains over Manila.
Because of the recent controversy over the dumping of crushed dolomite to look like white sand along Roxas Boulevard, it was suspected by some that the dolomite had somehow poisoned the waters. But the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) pointed out that the “white beach” project was several kilometers away from Baseco and its floating dead fish.
This is not the first time hundreds of dead fish have come floating to the surface of lakes, gulfs, and bays in the country. Last May, hundreds of tons of tilapia being grown in fish cages in Taal Lake, Batangas, floated dead to the surface due to the depletion of oxygen levels in the lake because of too many fish cages. Earlier fish kills in Taal Lake in 2008 and 2011 were linked to volcanic activity.
Last June, in Laguna de Bay, fish kills were traced also to the depletion of oxygen in the water due, this time, to the mass destruction of fresh green algae. In 2011, oxygen depletion and water climate change were blamed for the death of hundreds of milkfish in Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan.
Fish kills in the Philippines and in many other countries have been traced to various causes, including infectious diseases, algal blooms, high temperatures, and toxins from water pollution. Pollution has long been established as the major problem of Manila Bay, as a result of human wastes from houses, and other wastes from pig pens and factories dumped directly on streams flowing into the Pasig River, on to Manila Bay.
It is indeed unlikely, as Malacañang claims, that the Baseco fish kill is due to the crushed dolomite being spread along part of the Roxas Boulevard beach area to improve the view of the sunset and help in the mental health of Metro Manilans, in the words of presidential spokesman Harry Roque. Most probably, the fish kill resulted from the pollution that has long been a problem in Manila Bay.
The Supreme Court, in 2008, issued a direct order to various government agencies led by the DENR to clean up Manila Bay of all its garbage and sewage so it would again be fit for “swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.” The DENR did take some steps, including appointing river rangers to stop the throwing of garbage and sewage into the streams flowing into the Pasig and into the the bay. But the fact is that the pollution continues and the bay remains unfit for swimming.
This is one reason some people criticized the DENR’s white beach project with its P389-million budget. How much has been spent to stop the pollution of the bay?
Public attention is now on the fish kill at Baseco. The investigation will come up with the cause of It all — pollution. The DENR can have its dolomite white beach, but we hope to see it really work on this real problem of Manila Bay.