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Manila Bay rehab may take years to complete, expert says

MANILA – The proposed massive cleanup of the heavily polluted Manila Bay is a herculean task that could take years to complete, a noted architect and urban planner said Monday.

Speaking to “Bandila sa DZMM,” Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. said the project must be reviewed properly and needs all hands on deck.

“‘Yung catchment area ng Manila Bay is 1,700,000 hectares. You can fit in 26 Singapores or 1,700 Boracays, ganun ang magnitude niyan. Hindi lang dapat ‘yung government agencies ‘yung involved, all the provinces around it,” he said.

To restore Manila Bay to its former glory, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will start rehabilitating the capital’s main harbor end of January. Revenue from the road users’ tax, some P47 billion, is eyed by government to fund the project. 

If all goes according to plan, Palafox said the cleanup could take at least 4 years. 

Some parts of the 190 kilometer-coastline could be swum by December, he added.

Results of a water sampling in the area showed that Manila Bay’s average fecal coliform level was at 330 million most probable number (mpn), 3.3 million times above the standard 100 mpn that is ideal for swimming.

Informal settlers living along the bay’s shores, Palafox said, must also be relocated during the cleanup.

“Dapat talaga gumawa ng promenades along the Manila Bay front, dapat mga 50 meters ang setback. Along Pasig River, 10 meters. Along the esteros,mga 3 1/2 half meters. Dapat masunod yan,” he said.

Some 40,000 families were identified by DENR as the major contributor of the waters’ pollution. 

Palafox also said large-scale reclamation projects planned for Manila Bay must be studied properly.

The Solar City Reclamation Project will cover some 148 hectares, while the Waterfront City Reclamation Project will cover around 318 hectares in the polluted bay. 

Red tape and analysis paralysis or overthinking a situation, he said, could become big stumbling blocks to the rehabilitation.

“People first or social equity, then environment, then we can talk about profits,” Palafox said.

The proposed cleanup came about 3 months after Boracay Island underwent a 6-month rehabilitation.