The government’s ongoing rehabilitation efforts appeared to be paying off as the water quality within the Manila Bay region continued to improve this year.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) attributed this achievement to the faithful and efficient implementation of the Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (OPMBCS) and the various geo-engineering initiatives by the inter-agency Manila Bay Task Force (MBTF) headed by the DENR.
Following almost four years of rehabilitation efforts, the so-called “Battle for Manila Bay” resulted in significant improvement in the water quality within the bay region as shown by the gradual decrease in fecal coliform level since January 2019.
As of October 2022, the fecal coliform level in the National Capital Region (NCR) went down to 51,300 most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100mL) from a high of 126,000 MPN/100mL in 2019, according to the Manila Bay Coordinating Office (MBCO).
Significant decreases in coliform levels were also recorded in other areas within Manila Bay. The coliform level in Region IV-A’s bathing beaches dropped to 643 MPN/100mL from 3,040 MPN/100mL.
In Region III, the coliform level fell to 1,243 MPN/100mL from 5,099 MPN/100mL. It also went down in the river mouths or outfalls in Region IV-A from 94,000 MPN/100mL to 47,000 MPN/100mL.
At the same time, the coliform level in the famous Manila Baywalk area has significantly decreased to 658,000 MPN/100mL from a high of 5.75 million MPN/100mL.
In terms of liquid waste management, MBCO reported that as of the third quarter of 2022, a total of 1,202 establishments were surveyed and mapped, while 5,919 establishments were monitored, of which 61 were slapped with cease and desist orders and 949 were issued notices of violation.
The MBCO said that in terms of solid waste management, more than 125,000 cubic meters of solid waste were collected through trash traps, trash boats, and cleanup activities, as of September 2022.
In the management of informal settler families and illegal structures, a total of 128.47 kilometers were delineated to comply with the 20-meter easement across the three regions of Manila Bay.
Through the initiative of Region III, alternative livelihoods were provided to the resettled individuals through the construction of floating restaurants and development of an ecotourism area.
Under habitat and resources management, the MBCO reported that 13,535 mangroves and 24,730 bamboo propagules were planted throughout the bay region during the third quarter of 2022.
Aside from this, a total of 1,694 metric tons of fish catch were recorded by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, while the DENR-NCR recorded 9,248 birds of 197 different species.
On the other hand, Task Force Water Hyacinth reported that 22,453.02 cubic meters of water hyacinths were collected and disposed of by the DENR offices in NCR and Regions III and IV-A; Pasig River Coordinating and Management Office; Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and other member agencies within their areas of jurisdiction.
Additional cleanup activities were conducted at the river system choke points to strategically eliminate the influx of water hyacinths due to the onset of Habagat season.
In support of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program, the MMDA and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), under the supervision of the Mandamus Agencies and the MBTF, are also working on geo-engineering interventions and infrastructure.
As of October 2022, two of the seven projects in Manila Baywalk have been completed: the solar-powered comfort rooms on Padre Faura and Abad Streets; and the security, operation and maintenance of a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant (STP). The rest of the projects are at 83 to 96 percent completion.
At the Libertad Channel, which is also a hotspot in water pollution, dredging activities were completed while a solar-powered STP with a capacity of 10 million liters per day is already built and only awaiting commissioning.
MBCO Executive Director Jacob F. Meimban said the STP interventions are expected to significantly reduce pollution in the major waterways.
He said the agencies involved in the Manila Bay rehab will adopt sustainable management interventions in the Baywalk area in the coming year, implement community-based approach in solid waste management through waste-to-energy and upscaling, and promote nature-based approach through the development of a mangrove agenda.
“At the moment, we are also working on the institutionalization of the MBCO to ensure continuity in the implementation of the projects and activities under the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program,” Meimban said.