Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said Tuesday he felt “elated and overwhelmed” by the praise and support the Manila Bay beach nourishment project has received from President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the general public.

“It is very encouraging and fulfilling to get positive feedbacks from the public, much more to receive a commendation from the President. For us, it is an affirmation that we did the right decision to pursue the beach nourishment project,” Cimatu said.

He also thanked the President for recognizing the efforts of the Manila Bay Task Force led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to clean up the Baywalk area, particularly the overlaying of artificial white sand on the beach.

The DENR chief strongly believes that supportive views outnumbered criticisms over the beach nourishment project, which is an important component of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program.

“We, in the DENR and Manila Bay Task Force believe in the principle of vox populi vox dei, which says the voice of the people is the voice of God,” Cimatu said.

“The majority of the people have spoken, and they are supportive of the project,” he added.

According to Cimatu, seeing throngs of people at Manila Bay last weekend to get a glimpse of the white sand beach was a strong indication that the project enjoys overwhelming public support.

He, however, lamented the failure of the crowd to observe proper physical distancing with their eagerness to see the white sand beach.

“We are saddened by the overcrowding of people along Manila Bay, without observance of physical distancing. But somehow, we felt vindicated from the accusations and negative claims that the Manila Bay rehabilitation is artificial and harmful to human health and the environment,” Cimatu said.

The Manila Bay rehabilitation program dates back in 2008 when the Supreme Court issued a writ of continuing mandamus directing the DENR and other agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve the bay.

In more than a decade since the writ was issued, it was only under the Duterte administration that the government finally set in motion an honest-to-goodness undertaking to bring Manila Bay back to its former glory.

Cimatu shared all the praise and recognition the DENR has been getting because of the beach nourishment project to the other mandamus agencies.

“Di pa tapos ang rehabilitasyon ng Manila Bay, ngunit ngayon pa lang nagpapasalamat na ako sa lahat ng hirap at tulong na binibigay ng mga mandamus agencies, kung wala ang tulong ninyo, wala kaming magagawa sa DENR,” Cimatu stressed.

He specifically acknowledged the critical contributions of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Laguna Lake Development Authority, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the Philippine Maritime Group.

The mandamus agencies did not only vitally contributed in all rehabilitation works in Manila Bay, they also stood by the DENR in its most trying moments when the agency was severely criticized by some critics.

It can be recalled during the International Coastal Cleanup Day celebration on Sept. 19, almost all members of the Duterte Cabinet were there to give their statement of support to the DENR.

Manila Bay is only in its second phase of rehabilitation. The third phase, according to Cimatu, is the hardest—changing the attitude and behavior of the people towards the environment. This phase, if becomes successful, would sustain all the efforts that have been done to bring Manila Bay back to its former pristine condition. #