Coliform levels down in parts of Manila Bay after start of rehab

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Coliform levels in some parts of Manila Bay are down following the kickoff of the government's rehabilitation drive, but officials warn that it is still not safe for swimming.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 7) — Levels of coliform, a group of harmful bacteria found in human and animal feces, have gone down in some parts of Manila Bay following the start of the government's rehabilitation drive.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday, Environment Undersecretary Sherwin Rigor said coliform levels at the beachfront area near Salas in the city of Manila have gone down from 54 million most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100 ml) on January 4 to 7.9 million on January 28.

READ: Just how filthy is Manila Bay?

Coliform levels have also gone down in the beachfront area near Remedios Street in Manila from 160 million MPN/100 ml to 35 million MPN/100 ml in the same time period, following the closure of water supply to the Aristocrat Restaurant, which was found to be violating environmental laws.

READ: Three establishments face sanctions as Manila Bay rehab kicks off

The waters near the Manila Yacht Club have also tested lower for coliform, having clocked in at 92 million MPN/100 ml from 210 million MPN/100 ml on January 28 following the closure of Manila Zoo.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu earlier said coliform levels near the Manila Yacht Club have fallen to 52 million MPN/100 ml, while it has also dropped in the bay area near Padre Faura from 330 million MPN/100 ml to 7.9 million MPN/100 ml, and from 160 million MPN/100 ml to 35 million MPN/100 ml near Remedios.

However, officials warn that Manila Bay is still not safe to swim in as these coliform levels are still several times above the safe coliform level of 200 MPN/100 ml.

LOOK: 'Magical transformation': Netizens share photos of cleaner Manila Bay

"For the first time, we saw sand and beach. So when people saw that sand, 'Wow, it's a beach na, beachfront na pala,'" Rigor said. "They do not realize that it's still hundreds of millions of coliform on (sic) that waters."

Rigor expects the 178 local government units encompassing the Manila Bay to also do their share in the rehabilitation of the iconic body of water and not just wait for national government agencies to step in.

"We can start resettling informal settler families without waiting for the Manila Bay rehab program. You can start inspecting establishments without waiting for the [Department of Environment and Resources] so that we can work together," he said.

The Supreme Court ordered government agencies in 2008 to clean up and preserve the Manila Bay.

"In 2008, there wasn't really any political will on the part of government to get this done. It's only now," Malaya said.

The government eyes parts of Manila Bay to be swimmable by the end of the year.