The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported significant improvements in the water quality of major outfalls directly draining into Manila Bay a year after the pollution-challenged water body started undergoing rehabilitation.

“There is reason to celebrate because a year after we launched the ‘Battle for Manila Bay,’ we have recorded significant improvements in the water quality from major drainage outfalls,” DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, who chairs the Manila Bay Task Force, declared.

Before the rehabilitation kicked off on January 26 last year, the DENR recorded extremely high fecal coliform levels from major Manila Bay outfalls.

But now, Cimatu said the most recent data from the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) showed that the coliform levels have “drastically decreased.”

Citing EMB data, Cimatu said the fecal coliform count at the Padre Faura outfall is now down to 920,000 most probable number per 100 milliliter (mpn/100ml) from its pre-rehab record of 7.21 million mpn/100ml.

From 35 million mpn/100ml recorded before the rehabilitation began, Cimatu said the coliform level at the Raja Soliman/Remedios drainage outfall across Aristocrat Restaurant went down to 11 million mpn/100ml.

The coliform level at the Manila Yacht Club outfall is now 54 million mpn/100ml from a high of 110 million mpn/100ml, the DENR chief noted.

Despite these improvements, however, Cimatu said more needs to be done especially since the standard fecal coliform level in Manila Bay is 100 mpn/100ml based on its classification as “Class SB” coastal and marine water.

Last year, over 10,000 volunteers joined a massive cleanup activity along Roxas Boulevard in Manila and other areas in the bay region as a kick-off to the rehabilitation project dubbed as “Battle for Manila Bay,” which enjoys the full backing of the Duterte administration.

President Rodrigo RoaDuterte has allocated P42.95 billion for the implementation of the Manila Bay rehabilitation project within three years and at least 13 government agencies are working together to carry out the mission.

The government targets the source of water pollution in an effort to rehabilitate, restore and maintain the historic bay to a level fit for swimming, as mandated in the mandamus issued by the Supreme Court in 2008.

To mark Battle for Manila Bay’s first year on January 26, the DENR has lined up several activities including the inauguration of the sewage interceptor and treatment plant located in front of the Manila Yacht Club. The facility, which is capable of treating 500,000 liters of wastewater per day, will ensure that no untreated wastewater from the drainage outfalls flows into the bay.

The main event will be held at the Baseco Beach. A cleanup activity will begin at 6am, followed by the signing of the Pledege of Support from the private sector to the DENR’s War on Waste to be led by members of the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS).

PARMS commits to initiate and support efforts to manage plastic and other waste materials and reduce the country’s waste footprint.

The DENR will also launch the Solid Waste Management Advocacy Program aimed at increasing awareness on waste segregation, reducing garbage and raising cash from trash.

The invited guests include Supreme Court chief justice Diosdado Peralta, Senator Cynthia Villar, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.

Around 20,000 stakeholders and volunteers are expected to join the various activities lined up during Battle for Manila Bay’s first anniversary. ###