Not yet safe to swim in Manila Bay, DOH warns public

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 4) — Amid an ongoing cleanup, both health and environment officials on Monday advised Filipinos to still avoid swimming in the Manila Bay.

The Department of Health (DOH) warned the public not to dip in the bay waters until they are "deemed safe for recreational swimming."

In a statement, DOH said the Manila Bay still needs to undergo testing for chemical and physical quality as well as coliform levels.

"Waterborne gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, dysentery, as well as skin diseases and eye infections may be acquired while swimming in polluted bodies of water. If not treated promptly, some of these diseases may lead to complications or death. Let us practice good hygiene and sanitation and continue to support the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay," the statement read.

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the water's bacteria level is still beyond swimming standards.

"About the water quality, mataas pa rin ang level ng pollutants," Antiporda said. "Wala kaming sinasabi na pwede na mag-swimming diyan."

[Translation: About the water quality, the level of pollutants is still high. We didn't say that people could swim there already.]

In a report released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in January, coliform or E. coli bacteria levels in the Estero de San Antonio Abad — which leads directly to the bay — and the bay area near the Manila Yacht Club have decreased since environment authorities closed wastewater discharge points of some establishments dumping water to the bay.

On January 24, coliform levels in Estero de San Antonio Abad were at 920 million most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters, then on January 28, it was at 54 million MPN.

The Manila Yacht Club also registered at 920 million MPN on January 24, and went down to 35 million MPN on January 28.

The numbers are still way above what are considered safe levels for leisure activities such as swimming, which is 100 MPN.

Simply soaking in the waters of the Manila Bay or playing in the sand could also pose health risks such as rashes or fungal infections, especially among babies and children.

The DENR will also put up fences and signs along the bay to discourage the public from swimming until clearance is given.

Following the initial phase of cleanup, netizens have been sharing on social media platforms photos of a "cleaner" Manila Bay.

The Manila Bay is one of the many locations in the Philippines that is being rehabilitated by President Rodrigo Duterte's administration. In April 2018, the world-famous Boracay island was closed off to tourists for six months for the cleanup.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier confirmed the government allotted P47 billion to fund Manila Bay's rehabilitation.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Carolyn Bonquin contributed to this report.