Manila Bay is worse off a decade after a Supreme Court decision ordering local government units and government agencies to rehabilitate it, and officials of LGUs surrounding the bay may face administrative charges soon.
In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel, Environment Undersecretary Sherwin Rigor said authorities began checking sewage pipes that drain into the “very polluted” bay with an average 330 million most probable number (mpn) of fecal coliform for every liter.
That figure is 3.3 million times above the standard 100 mpn that is ideal for swimming, Rigor told ANC. The most polluted part is near the Manila Yacht Club—one of the 12 outfalls in the Manila Bay—where the coliform level is at 1.3 billion mpn, he added.
Rigor said the Department of the Interior and Local Government is “checking on the records of all levels of local government units” to see if there was a “failure” to implement environmental laws.
“That includes some government officials who allowed the proliferation of informal settlers [because] these are major contributors to the waste discharged in waterways, esteros that end up in the Manila Bay,” he told ANC.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources plans to spend some P3 billion to decrease the coliform level in the Manila Bay over the next five years. Silt curtains, temporary toilets and sewage lines will be put up to reduce the average coliform level to 250-270 million by the end of 2019, Rigor said.
“We need to manage expectations... We may reduce it but for this year, SB [swimming] quality, is not possible,” he said.
In 2014, the Manila Bay Coordinating Office had said bay’s water quality remained problematic owing to the continued dumping of garbage and untreated wastewater from 86 percent of the 14 million households served by water concessionaires that is still directly flushed out into the water body.
Six years before that or on Dec. 18, 2008, the Supreme Court issued a writ of continuing mandamus directing 13 government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and eventually preserve Manila Bay.
More than 34 million people live within the Manila Bay basin area but its problems affect the rest of the country, the MBCO noted.
Some institutions connected to the drainage near the Manila Yacht Club are the Ospital ng Maynila, Manila Zoo, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, hotels near Roxas Boulevard and the De La Salle University in Taft Avenue, Rigor said. Three other outfalls discharge water with over a billion coliform per liter, he added.