A significant decrease in fecal coliform was recorded in Manila Bay, particularly in the Baywalk area, Estero de San Antonio Abad, and Baseco Beach, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In the Baywalk, fecal coliform is now down to 2,211,833 most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100ml), compared to 5,666,213 MPN/100ml in 2019, the DENR reported.
The coliform level in Estero de San Antonio Abad also went down from 43,881,048 MPN/100ml to 19,066,767 MPN/100ml, and Baseco Beach from 1,700,000 MPN/100ml in 2019 to 341,225 MPN/100ml, it said.
There is still a long way to go as the standard coliform level for coastal waters which is safe for swimming and other similar recreational activities is at 100 MPN/100ml.
Despite the pandemic, government efforts to clean up Manila Bay still showed sizeable gains, according to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, who chairs the Manila Bay Task Force that is in charge of restoring the historic water body.
Cimatu said the solar-powered sewage treatment plant (STP) inaugurated by the task force in July was among its significant accomplishments for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
The STP is capable of treating 500,000 liters of wastewater per day from three drainage outfalls—Padre Faura, Remedios and Estero de San Antonio Abad.
Cleanup activities were also regularly conducted in creeks, esteros and river systems. An average 60 metric tons of garbage were collected daily for a total of 24,471.30 metric tons from 2019.
In partnership with the Department of Public Works and Highways, dredging and desilting operations were also conducted.
In the Baywalk area, a total of 210,549 cubic meters (m³) of silts and submerged garbage were dredged.
Meanwhile, a total of 551,768.72 m³ of dredged materials were collected from the esteros, creeks and rivers.
These include esteros in eight priority river systems: San Juan River, Pasig River, Tullahan-Tinajeros River, Navotas-Malabon River, Parañaque River, Las Piñas-Zapote River, Taguig-Pateros River, and Marikina River.
Cimatu said the task force also introduced geo-engineering interventions in the bay, such as the installation of trash booms and silt curtains.
“We are optimistic that these measures will really help clean the waters of Manila Bay,” Cimatu said but noted that “this is an effort not only of the government but of every Filipino.”
“We must work hand in hand.”
In Baseco, a circumferential sewerage interceptor was constructed and communal septic tanks were installed to minimize the direct discharge of untreated wastewater to the bay.
In December, Project Kubeta Ko was launched at Parola Compound in Tondo, Manila by the city government of Manila, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Maynilad Water Services, Inc., Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, and the DENR.
The project aims to minimize open defecation in Manila Bay by informal settler families (ISFs) in Manila. It adopted a portable, container-based toilet solution to provide dignified temporary sanitation facilities for ISFs prior to relocation.
In September, the DENR also embarked on the beach nourishment project with the use of dolomite to rehabilitate and protect the coastal resources in the area, as well as to prevent coastal flooding, erosion, and pollution.
The estimated cost of the entire project is P389 million, around P28 million of which is allotted for the dolomite overlay.
The cleanup and rehabilitation of Manila Bay is guided by the Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy which covers the period 2017-2022, and by Administrative Order No. 16 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019.