Updated Feb 7, 2019, 12:17:00 AM
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 6) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it will fence off Manila Bay from those who wish to swim in its waters.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said Thursday the 4-foot fence will be installed near Manila Bay's seawall in the next three days. It will span the distance from the United States Embassy to the Manila Yacht Club along Roxas Boulevard.
"The reason why we are closing it is because we're starting to rehabilitate it," he said.
The public will still be able to see the famous Manila Bay sunset but those wishing to walk alongside the shore will be prohibited from doing so, Cimatu explained.
"We're not closing the baywalk. Importante lang malinisan [It's just important to have it cleaned]," Cimatu added.
Fishermen will still be allowed to fish in the bay.
The environment chief also reiterated that government is not cleaning up with future land reclamation in the bay in mind, amid reports some projects have been approved.
"Wala, walang reclamation. We are being part of the mandamus of the Supreme Court, and that's what we are implementing," he said.
A Supreme Court ruling in 2008 ordered the DENR to lead in government's clean-up of the bay.
READ: Duterte transfers power to approve reclamation projects to agency under his office
Cimatu added the quality of water in parts of the bay has improved since its first inspection.
Areas near the Manila Yacht Club used to be home to 1.3 billion most probable number (MPN) of coliform for every 100 milliliters -- with the safe level below 100 MPN. Coliform is a group of harmful bacteria from human and animal feces.
Cimatu explains that coliform levels in the yacht area are now down to 52 million MPN.
In the bay area near Padre Faura, it has gone from 330 million MPN to 7.9 million MPN. Near Remedios, the coliform levels have gone down from 160 million MPN to 35 million MPN.
The Environment Secretary said outfalls on these three areas have long contributed to Manila bay's pollution. The next phase is to treat the water and redirect it to the Manila Yacht Club by installing pipelines on the baywalk.
"It'll be going to the Yacht Club 1.5 kilometers away," he said. "In the Yacht Club we'll be making a treatment plant there, we will treat all these three outfalls into one."
The Manila Bay is one of the latest environmental rehabilitation programs by the Duterte administration. In 2018, Boracay island was closed for six months for rehabilitation, and hotels were ordered to have their own sewage treatment plant.
The DENR has inspected 341 establishments and 58 hotels near the bay. Eight were issued cease and desist orders, while 13 were given notices of violations.
Around 45,000 tons of garbage and solid waste were extracted from the bay as well. These were disposed of at a Pampanga landfill.
The government eyes Manila Bay to have swimmable beaches by this year and have it cleaned-up and rehabilitated by the end of President Rodrigo Duterte's term.