The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) aims to make the Manila Bay dolomite beach swimmable by the end of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s term in June.

To achieve this, DENR OIC Secretary Jim O. Sampulna said the government continues to focus on the improvement of Manila Bay’s water quality as well as the rehabilitation of coastal and marine ecosystems.

“We are looking at completing the second phase of the beach nourishment project while further reducing fecal coliform levels to make the bay safe for swimming, boating, and other forms of contact recreation,” Sampulna said during a media briefing held at the DENR Central Office in Quezon City on February 28.

DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones said the department is doubling its rehabilitation efforts to reach the standard fecal coliform level of 100 most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100 mL) to allow recreational activities.

“Tuloy-tuloy po ang ginagawa diyan. Gusto po namin kapag binuksan namin [ang dolomite beach,] hindi na lang viewing ng mga tao, but of course ‘yung dream nating maging swimmable na ‘yung Manila Bay,” Leones said.

Despite having “no new budget” to purchase dolomite, Leones noted that Congress has allocated a budget for the Baywalk area’s continuous rehabilitation, such as the installation of public restrooms and other infrastructure development equipment.

He added that they are continuously monitoring the quality of water coming from major drainage outfalls discharging into Manila Bay, which has improved by 50 percent.

“It’s just a matter of spreading the dolomite sand, and then sa may Remedios, [mapapansin] niyo na may naka-install ng kuryente diyan para malagay na ng MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) ‘yung water pump diyan [para] all wastewater mada-divert sa STP (sewage treatment plan) bago ma-discharge sa Manila Bay,” Leones explained.

Data from the Manila Bay Coordinating Office (MBCO) shows that the Baywalk STP, which treats wastewater from Padre Faura, Remedios, and Estero de San Antonio de Abad outfalls, passed the fecal coliform standard for Class SB waters as of September 2021.

In line with this, MBCO Deputy Executive Director Jacob Meimban Jr. added that DENR and LLDA inspected more than 6,200 establishments discharging waters to Manila Bay, and issued 1,440 notices of violation, five cease and desist orders, and five ex-parte orders.

“As of December 2021, 6,246 establishments were inspected po by DENR and LLDA,” Meimban said.

“Ganon po kalawak ‘yung ginagawa natin base po sa pagbabantay ng water quality sa Manila Bay Region, kasi ‘yun po ang pangunahing utos ng mandamus order ng Supreme Court,” he said.

When asked if the dolomite beach will be reopened since the National Capital Region has been downgraded to Alert Level 1 on March 1, Meimban said the DENR will give an announcement on this in the coming days.

“We will abide by the recent developments [and construction] in the area. Of course, we are yet to complete the security measures to safeguard the safety of the public, so in due time, we will give updates on when we’ll open the beach,” he said. ###