Gov't takes up challenge of relocating over 200,000 families around Manila Bay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — The government plans to relocate 232,000 informal settler families around Manila Bay — a gargantuan task that will be part of efforts starting this month to rehabilitate the bacteria-infested body of water, a senior official said.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Wednesday the first phase of the rehabilitation is the cleanup and improvement of water quality. While the government is doing this, planning for the relocation of families will also be ongoing. He admitted it will not be an easy task.

"You can imagine the magnitude of this effort. We are talking of about 232,000 ISF (informal settler families) in the 3 regions, mostly in Region 4A. But we will give priority to NCR, because they are living along esteros and waterways," he told CNN Philippines.

There are 37,000 ISF in Metro Manila, Año added. He has also assured that the resettlement areas for informal settlers will provide their basic need, such as water, electricity, and a program for those who will lose jobs.

The Environment Department has said residences and commercial establishments are to blame for the bacteria-infested Manila Bay, which is home to billions of harmful bacteria - way above the level considered safe.

He said it will take two to five years to complete the relocation. DILG is one of the 13 agencies ordered by the Supreme Court to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

Año is hopeful parts of the Manila Bay will be opened for public swimming by December.

"Based on the calculation of the task force, by end of the year we can say the quality of water will already improve to a level where people can swim in Manila Bay, but probably not the entire Manila Bay," he said.

The rehabilitation of Manila Bay — which covers three regions, eight provinces, and 178 local government units — will kick off on January 27.