DENR gears up for P47-billion Manila Bay rehabilitation

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Children swim in the murky waters of Manila Bay.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 8) — The government is preparing for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay starting January 27.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny Antiporda on Tuesday confirmed that the Duterte administration is allotting P47 billion to fund the clean-up. The budget will also be used to look for relocation sites of affected families living near the bay.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the total budget may amount to P132 billion, adding the road users' tax for government projects will be utilized to fund the rehabilitation.

"That's only part of the road users tax. Malaki 'yung road users tax (Road users tax is large)," he said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

The special Road Board fund amounts to P45 billion, according to the Department of Budget and Management. President Rodrigo Duterte, during a Cabinet meeting on Monday, said the fund can also be used to finance hospital needs and additional help to Tropical Depression Usman's victims.

Like Boracay rehabilitation?

Manila Bay is one of the many locations in the Philippines that is being rehabilitated by the Duterte administration. In April 2018, the world-famous Boracay island was closed off to tourists for six months to be cleaned up.

Palace said nearby establishments along Manila Bay may be ordered closed if found guilty of violating environment rules.

"The policy of the government is if you violate certain regulations, you need to pay for that. Kung anong ginawa natin sa Boracay, yun din gagawin natin sa lahat," Panelo said.

(Translation: What we did with Boracay, we will do with the rest.)

In a speech later that day, President Rodrigo Duterte specifically warned hotels near the bay about their waste disposal systems.

"Lagyan niyo ng water treatment yan... You do something about your waste otherwise I will close you," the President said.

There is no completion date for the rehabilitation, but Panelo said DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu hopes to finish it by the end of Duterte's term in June 2022.

"No specific timeline, depende 'yan eh (it depends). What is important to the President is that he will clean up Manila Bay," he said.

The 2,000-square kilometer Manila Bay has been found to have extreme levels of coliform. Cimatu earlier said the bacteria came from waste spilled by the esteros or estuaries in Metro Manila.

The secretary said the long-term goal is to reduce the coliform level to 100 most probable numbers per 100 milliliters (MPN/100ml) or low enough for the bay to be safe for swimming. Currently, the level is at 333 million MPN/100ml.