The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will strictly implement the country’s clean water law to ensure the success of the effort to revive the heavily polluted Manila Bay.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the strict implementation of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 is the “key to addressing water quality issues and other environmental problems in the historic bay.”

Cimatu recently conducted an ocular inspection of the Estero de San Antonio de Abad in Malate, Manila where outfalls from establishments in the area discharge their wastewater.

“Establishments have to put up their own sewage treatment plants (STPs). They cannot discharge their wastewater in the esteros,” Cimatu said. “We are giving them three months to put up their own STPs,” he added.

Cimtu said that to jumpstart the rehabilitation, the DENR will start the clean-up of esteros by tracing the sources of untreated wastewater.

The environment chief added the planned Manila Bay rehabilitation program will be strategic to oversee the implementation of the three-phase Manila Bay Action Plan.

Phase 1 is cleanup and improvement of water quality improvement, Phase 2 is rehabilitation, and Phase 3, protection and sustainment.

Cimatu said Phase 1 is set to begin this year. It will include the clean-up of esteros and waterways, reduction of the level of fecal coliform and toxic discharges from establishments, and provision of temporary sanitation facilities for informal settlers residing along the esteros and the Manila Bay shoreline. Solid waste management and planning for the relocation of the informal settlers will also be done.

Cimatu also inspected the Paranaque and Don Galo rivers, which both lead to Manila Bay. These two tributaries have also been reported to have high fecal coliform levels.

In 2008, the Supreme Court issued a continuing mandamus ordering the DENR and 12 other government agencies – Departments of Interior of Local Government, Education, health, Agriculture, Public Works and Highways, and Budget and Management, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, Philippine Ports Authority, MMDA, MWSS and Local Water Utilities Administration to clean up Manila Bay and restore its water quality to Class SB level safe for recreational activities such as swimming.

Fecal coliform level in Manila Bay is at 330 million MPN (most probable number) per 100 milliliters. The acceptable level for Class SB water is 100MPN/100 ml.

The DENR’s goal is to reduce coliform level to less than 270 MPN/100ml less by December 2019. ###