Two decades after SC ordered cleanup, Manila Bay waters now ‘filthier’

Published February 14, 2021, 1:45 PM

by Ben Rosario

Already polluted 22 years ago, the waters of Manila Bay are now “several times filthier” notwithstanding the multi-million peso backed government effort to improve it.


Deputy Speaker and BUHAY Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza made this assessment as he recalled that it took a Supreme Court ruling to force 13 government agencies to clean up the inlet.

The ruling was the SC’s response to a civil action filed by concerned residents in Manila, of which Atienza was a former mayor.

  “We checked court records. Water samples taken from Manila Bay way back in 1999 showed fecal coliform counts of 50,000 to 80,000 most probable number (MPN) per milliliter (ml),” Atienza said in a statement released on Sunday, February 14.

“In contrast, based on the most recent water samples taken from major outfalls along Roxas Boulevard, fecal coliform counts now range anywhere from 11 million to 54 million MPN per ml,” the veteran solon said.

He explained that a “very high fecal coliform count” suggests the heavy presence of bacteria or viruses in the water that may cause diseases such as typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis and hepatitis A.

“This is really not surprising because up to now, of the 16.3 million water-served population in Metro Manila, only 15 percent or 2.4 million are connected to a sewerage system,” Atienza pointed out.

There were actually two court cases involving Manila Bay pollution that elicited rulings from the Supreme Court.

The first was filed in 1999 by concerned residents who demanded action on the worsening Manila Bay pollution from the  Metro Manila Development Authority and 12 other agencies.

The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the residents in 2008 and issued a continuing mandamus that required the agencies to rehabilitate the waters of the bay.

The second one was case decided by the High Court in 2019.  

The SC penalized Metro Manila’s two private water concessionaires and the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System with P1.84 billion in combined fines due to their failure to connect households to a sewerage system and their lack of wastewater treatment facilities.

Until they fully comply with the provisions of Clean Water Act, the three parties will have to pay a daily fine of P322,102 that escalates by 10 percent in two years, plus legal interest of six percent per annum.

The tribunal upheld the penalty imposed by Atienza when he was Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources in 2009.

“Clearly, the bulk of Metro Manila’s household toilet waste continues to drain into waterways, including the Pasig River, that all empty out into the bay every day,” Atienza said.

“This proves our point that we have stop the uncontrolled outflow of human sewage if we truly want to decontaminate Manila Bay,” Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila, said.