Despite government-led efforts to cleanse Manila Bay, its waters are now “several times filthier”, according to deputy speaker and BUHAY party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, citing a Supreme Court decision that mandated 13 government agencies to contribute to the endeavor.
“We checked court records,” Atienza said in a statement last Sunday. “Water samples taken from Manila Bay way back in 1999 showed fecal coliform counts of 50,000 to 80,000 most probable number (MPN) per milliliter (mL).”
“In contrast, based on the most recent water samples taken from major outfalls along Roxas Boulevard, fecal coliform counts now range anywhere from 11 million to 54 million MPN per mL,” he continued.
A high fecal coliform count suggested the presence of bacteria and viruses in the water which could cause diseases like typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis and hepatitis A.
He went on: “This is really not surprising because up to now, of the 16.3 million water-served population in Metro Manila, only 15% or 2.4 million are connected to a sewerage system.”
Two cases involving the cleanup of Manila Bay resulted in rulings from the Supreme Court. The first was brought forth in 1999 by concerned residents of Manila who wanted action on the state of the body of water. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the residents nine years later, and issued a continuing mandamus requiring agencies to rehabilitate the bay.
In 2019, the Supreme Court fined Metro Manila’s two major water suppliers as well as the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) a combined P1.84 billion for failing to connect households to a sewerage system and the lack of wastewater treatment facilities.
The three parties are required to pay a fine of P322,102 per day, which increases by 10% in two years, until they are found to be fully compliant with the Clean Water Act.
“Clearly, the bulk of Metro Manila’s household toilet waste continues to drain into waterways, including the Pasig River, that all empty out into the bay every day,” said Atienza. “This proves our point that we have to stop the uncontrolled outflow of human sewage if we truly want to decontaminate Manila Bay.”