MANILA -- The ongoing refurbishment of the six-story building that houses the central office of the Department of Finance (DOF) along Roxas Boulevard in Manila now includes a state-of-the-art sewage treatment facility that is operational way ahead of the Duterte administration’s program to rehabilitate the heavily-polluted Manila Bay.

Director Alvin Diaz, who heads the DOF’s Central Administration Office, said the Department was “way ahead of the curve” in relation to the ongoing rehabilitation efforts, because its building now has its own sewage treatment plant {STP) that became operational in November 2018 using the latest technology in treating sewage water effluent discharged into Manila Bay.

Diaz said the DOF is among the few government agencies whose offices have their own STPs utilizing the latest sewage treatment technologies. Diaz oversees the project design and management of the Department's ongoing building renovation.

“Among the government agencies with their STPs are the City Hall of Caloocan, the Casimiro Henares Hospital in Rizal, Antipolo Hospital, Langhari Public Market in Malabon, and the Molino Public Market in Bacoor, Cavite to name a few,” he added.

Diaz said the DOF building’s sewage treatment facility discharges effluent into the Manila Bay that is classified as Class C, which is fit for fishing and the propagation and growth of fish and other aquatic resources.

"This is the minimum standard of the DENR for water being discharged into the bay. We are now conducting tests to check what still needs to be done so that our STP can meet the Class B requirement, which is fit for bathing and swimming," he said.

He pointed out that the STP, as well as the other environment-friendly features incorporated in the ongoing renovation of the DOF building, could be considered as a model for other government structures up for refurbishment.

“In fact, we are currently working for the DENR’s (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) issuance of a discharge permit that will validate DOF’s compliance with existing rules and regulations,” Diaz said.

He said the first thing one notices when facing the DOF building is its imposing new glass façade reflecting an azure landscape, but hidden from public view are other improvements that are designed to minimize pollution and reduce operation costs for the Department.

On top of the STP, Diaz said these include the use of LED lighting systems to minimize power consumption, and a building management system to monitor and control the building facilities such as its centralized air conditioning and other equipment and utilities.

“Even the impressive glass envelope in front of the building serves a purpose, other than to be aesthetically pleasing. The glass cladding cuts the noise entering the building and also reduces the heat, which makes it energy-efficient,” he said.

Diaz said the STP, which costs PHP2.8 million, is self-maintaining, thus incurring no maintenance costs at all for the DOF.

“The advantage of having an STP is that you are able to regulate and control effluent water, making sure that it is in compliance with the government requirements, and thus contributing to the preservation of our marine resources,” he said.

The construction of the STP started last year and has become operational two months ago.

Diaz said that under government regulations, the DOF is required to put up its own STP because of the lack of a public sewer 100 meters from the building site.

DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who was then Minister of Natural Resources during the early years of the Corazon Aquino administration, saw the need for the DOF Building to have its own STP. Thus, he approved in 2017 the recommendation of the project design and management team in charge of the refurbishment of the DOF Building to include an STP isolated from the adjoining Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) compound, using the latest sewage treatment technologies.

The Supreme Court had ordered in a 2008 ruling 13 government agencies, led by the DENR, to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve” the historic Manila Bay. The high court’s directive required these government agencies to maintain the waters of Manila Bay to a level fit for “swimming, skin diving and other forms of contact recreation.”

However, despite the SC ruling, the waters of Manila Bay continued to deteriorate over the years, with its fecal coliform level today reported at 330 million most probable number (MPN) per 100 millimeters (ml). The acceptable Class SB level fit for swimming is 100 MPN/100 ml.

President Duterte has directed the DENR and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to take charge of the rehabilitation program for Manila Bay.

The President also directed establishments along Manila Bay to observe environmental regulations and water quality guidelines under the Clean Water Act or face closure. (DOF PR)