MANILA -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will still study whether to include in Manila Bay’s rehabilitation the recovery of wreckage submerged in the historic body of water.

"We'll first have to see if such wreckage is affecting the quality of water there," DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said Monday.

If not, Leones said, it may be better to just leave the wreckage in its watery grave to possibly serve as either artificial reef for various aquatic species or diving attraction for tourists.

"Removing the wreckage might even harm Manila Bay," he said.

Among the possible harm to Manila Bay is the spill of oil that might still be in the wreckage, Leones said.

In 2009, authorities reported recovering a World War II-era US tank stuck in Manila Bay's seafloor and a Japanese canon nearby.

US forces fought Japanese troops during that war aside from defeating Spain's naval fleet during the 1898 battle of Manila Bay.

While there's nothing final yet about including wreckage recovery in Manila Bay's rehabilitation, Leones assured that the government will dredge the bay to remove silt and trash that accumulated over the decades.

"Divers last week reported 4-meter-high silt and trash there," he said.

He said the government will also dredge Manila Bay's major tributaries.

Last month, the government launched Manila Bay's rehabilitation to save it from further environmental degradation.

The rehabilitation's main activities are cleaning Manila Bay and its tributaries, relocating informal settlers, and educating the public about solid waste management.

The government aims to reduce the level of coliform bacteria in Manila Bay so its water could again be fit for swimming and other recreational activities.

"We welcome the private sector's help in rehabilitating Manila Bay," Leones said.

He reiterated that the government cannot solely rehabilitate Manila Bay and needs partners to successfully carry out this work. (PNA