Fecal coliform levels in Manila Bay still high – DENR

MANILA, Philippines – Don't be so quick to dive into Manila Bay as fecal coliform bacteria levels in its waters are still considered high, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Wednesday, February 6.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said during the Kapihan sa Manila at Cafe Adriatico, that the government has not yet allowed the public to swim in Manila Bay even after the cleanup drive last January 27.

This comes after photos of locals swimming in the bay along Roxas Boulevard circulated days ago.

"Bathing in Manila Bay can expose people to high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, which could increase their chances of developing illnesses," Cimatu was quoted as saying in a statement.

Swimming in waters with high fecal coliform bacteria levels can lead to various diseases such as typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, and dysentery.

"We have not yet gotten rid of pollutants such as those from untreated wastewater being discharged into the bay, so we strongly advise the public, especially children, to refrain from swimming in the bay for now," Cimatu said.

Bacteria levels taken from the Rajah Soliman outfall – one of the 8 water quality monitoring stations of the DENR – reached 35 million most probable number (mpn) for every 100 milliliters (ml) as of January 28.

This is the highest count out of all the stations, followed by the Padre Faura drainage outfall which registered a count of 7.9 million mpn per 100 ml.

All 8 stations are above the safe level of 100 mpn per 100 ml. (READ: Manila Bay not yet safe for swimming – DOH)

Prior to the cleanup, the DENR said bacteria levels in Manila Bay reached up to 330 million mpn per 100 ml. 

The government was tasked to bring Manila Bay back to Class SB as early as 2008, which means that the water can be used for recreational purposes. 

Beyond the cleanup drive

Cimatu also vowed to go after erring businesses located along Manila Bay which do not have their own sewage treatment facilities.

"No establishment that is polluting Manila Bay will be spared from the crackdown. We will make sure all establishments will go through inspection and the violators will have to pay the price for polluting the environment," he said.

The Laguna Lake Development Authority already closed 4 establishments found to be dumping untreated wastewater: Billion Building, HK Sun Plaza, Tramway Bayview Buffet Restaurant in Pasay City, and D Circle Hotel.

This is aside from 13 notices of violations (NOVs), 8 cease and desist orders (CDOs), and 4 ex-parte orders to establishments violating Republic Act No. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 prior to the cleanup.

The DENR also served 265 NOVs to businesses located in Metro Manila, 45 NOVs to establishments in Calabarzon, and 21 CDOs in Central Luzon for environmental violations.

"This is just the initial salvo as inspection of establishments for their compliance goes full swing not only here in Metro Manila, but also in the provinces that affect the water quality of Manila Bay," Cimatu said. – Rappler.com