DENR: Coliform levels in Manila Bay have gone down, but are still not up to standard

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — A year after the government began rehabilitation efforts for Manila Bay, the Environment department said there have been significant developments, but water condition still falls short of standards.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' On the Record Thursday, Jake Meimban, director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Manila Bay Coordinating Office, said fecal coliform levels in three priority areas in Manila had dropped.

These are the Manila baywalk, Baseco beach, and Estero Antonio de Abad.

"We are winning on these three priority areas in terms of lowering the coliform level, in terms of also collecting or cleaning up the garbage in that area. But on the coliform levels, a lot has been...has been decreasing slowly, but still is not within the standard levels... set by the DENR," he said.

Broken down by area, Meimban said fecal coliform level at Estero Abad is around 35 million most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100 ml), compared to 1.7 billion last year; Baywalk area now at less than 100 million compared to around 300 million previously; Baseco now at 53,000 from the previous one million

The safe level is 100 MPN/100 ml.

READ: Just how filthy is Manila Bay? 

Meimban also mapped out the bay area, saying it was not limited to the space fronting Roxas Boulevard.

"Manila Bay, covering its coastlines, is about 190 kilometers, that's from Manila to Bataan," he said, adding there are around 14 to 16 million people living in areas around the bay.

While the biggest threat in the so-called "Battle for Manila Bay" is water pollution, it is not limited to human waste.

"It's parly true that it's a lot of trash from residential houses, but believe it or not, what killed Pasig River was not plastics, it's a lot of other things. So the DENR's monitoring a lot more than just the solid waste problem. When we look at the whole Manila Bay we look at the nitrates, the phosphates, the heavy metals. And plastics as part of solid waste is only part of the problem," said Paolo Pagaduan, manager of the World Wildlife Fund's Forest for Water program.

Meimban said the government plans to install a wastewater interceptor in the baywalk area, and treat wastewater before discharge to the bay.

He added water companies in Metro Manila have also allotted a combined ₱10 billion in their 2020 budgets for sewage management.

Watch the full episode here