The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has purchased four trash boats to collect floating garbage along Manila Bay and its tributaries, and is planning to purchase 20 more, it was announced by DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje.

Paje said the trash boats will be deployed to target local government units (LGUs) in the Central Luzon, CALABARZON and National Capital Region (NCR) for use in the cleanup of coastal and inland waterways and river systems draining into Manila Bay.

“The trash boats are DENR’s way of assisting LGUs in two ways: cleaning up the waterways in their areas of jurisdiction, and ensuring the implementation of solid waste management, as they are mandated to do so,” he said.

The four boats that have been initially purchased are currently docked at the Manila Yacht Club compound along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. These will be turned over in separate ceremonies to the cities of Malabon and Manila; to Obando in Bulacan province; and to the province of Cavite.

Each costing some PhP1.733 million, the trash boats measure 30 feet in length and are semi-mechanized, with rake-like device that can scoop up to three tons of floating garbage and debris. The collected trash will be dumped onto the boat’s deck and manually segregated into marked sorting bins that can easily be disembarked onto waiting garbage collection trucks.

Director Noel Gaerlan of the DENR’s Manila Bay Coordinating Office (MBCO), which is in charge of the acquisition of the boats, said the recipients of the 20 additional units is still to be determined.

He also said that since the trash boats will mainly be used in rivers and esteros, the DENR is also planning to purchase a “trash skimmer” that will be used to collect trash along Manila Bay.

The cleanup of Manila Bay was ordered by the Supreme Court (SC) through a decision dated December 18, 2008. In the “writ of continuing mandamus”, the SC tasked 13 government agencies, including the DENR, to clean up the bay and restore its waters to SB level, or fit for swimming, skin-diving and other forms of contact recreation.