MANILA -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will spearhead on Sunday simultaneous water clean-up activities in National Capital Region, Central Luzon (Region 3) and Calabarzon (Region 4-A) to kick off the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

“The rehabilitation’s Phase I includes cleanup of esteros and coasts of Manila Bay,” DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said on Tuesday at a press conference in Quezon City.

Esteros are among priority areas for the cleanup since these waterways are major sources of pollutants in Manila Bay, he said.

He added that Phase II of the rehabilitation will be on educating the public about solid waste management.

Phase III will focus on sustaining efforts to save Manila Bay from further environmental degradation, he said.

He said in NCR, Phase I of the rehabilitation will prioritize cleaning up of Manila Bay’s coastal stretch from Manila Yacht Club to the US Embassy.

“Many people stroll there so we’ll clean up that area first,” Cimatu said.

Among the targets for the cleanup in Regions 3 and 4-A are sites with piggeries and informal settlers, respectively.

DENR and its partners are set to undertake clean-up activities to improve Manila Bay’s quality of water as its water pollution is far worse than Boracay Island, which the DENR helped rehabilitate last year, Cimatu noted.

The environmental secretary said decades-long flow of solid waste and untreated discharge into Manila Bay raised level of pollutive coliform bacteria in its water to over 330 million most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters.

Coliform level in Boracay was less than one million MPN per 100 milliliters, he said. “The difference shows how big the problem is in Manila Bay,” he said.

The safe coliform level is 100 MPN per 100 milliliters only. “We’ll try to bring down coliform level in Manila Bay to that level,” Cimatu said.

Meeting such target means Manila Bay’s waters will be fit again for swimming and other contact forms of recreation, he added.

Cimatu said the 13 agencies cited in Supreme Court’s 2008 order on cleaning up, rehabilitating and preserving Manila Bay will join forces to achieve the target and help prevent continuing environmental degradation in this body of water.

Those agencies are the environment, agriculture, public works, interior, education, health and budget departments, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, Local Water Utilities Administration, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police-Maritime Group and Philippine Ports Authority.

Cimatu said the network for rehabilitating Manila Bay is expanding and no longer limited to such agencies, however. "Other agencies volunteered to join us in the work," he said.

Cimatu said several companies also already pledged support for Manila Bay's rehabilitation.

"Some companies will be lending equipment for the work," he said earlier this week on the side of the 10th International Water Association Conference on Efficient Urban Water Management in Pasay City.

He noted Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI) and other companies offered to share respective expertise relevant to the rehabilitation work. MWSI will provide guidance on pipe-laying, he said.

Experts said coliform bacteria are found in the environment as well as in human and animal feces.

Presence of coliform bacteria indicates contamination of water and such has potential to cause diseases. (PNA)