By Ellalyn Vera-Ruiz
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu appealed to the informal settler families (ISFs) living along waterways to avail themselves of the government’s relocation program as their contribution to the Manila Bay rehabilitation.
Cimatu said the relocation of ISFs would hasten ongoing efforts to rehabilitate polluted creeks and other waterways that drain into the historic bay, which the government wants to become “swimmable” by December this year.
He made the appeal when he and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno inspected last weekend an area along Estero de San Antonio Abad in Malate that used to be occupied by 50 ISFs.
The area has been cleared of illegal structures after 50 ISFs agreed to transfer to a relocation site administered by the National Housing Authority (NHA) in Caloocan City’s Tala district, leaving behind 20 ISFs residing along one of Manila’s filthiest esteros.
“We would like to appeal to the remaining 20 families to comply with the requirements of the NHA, so that we can already move them to their new location, to a better place,” Cimatu said.
The DENR chief noted the significant improvement in Estero de San Antonio Abad since majority of the 71 ISFs living along the creek have left and their houses demolished by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
He revealed that the fecal coliform level in the estero has “dramatically gone down.”
Cimatu said coliform level used to number 1.3 billion most probable number per 100 milliliters (mpn/100ml), but now, it is down to 10 million mpn/100 ml.
The cleanup efforts will continue until the coliform bacteria count reaches acceptable level, he said.
He explained that the fences surrounding the creek will be removed to comply with the three-meter easement rule and allow more spaces for garbage trucks and people who would take part in the cleanup operations.
DENR, he added, will continue to coordinate with the Manila City government for the rehabilitation of the Malate creek and other esteros leading to the Manila Bay.