About 220,000 squatter families will be displaced by the Manila Bay rehabilitation project and will be relocated to Central Luzon and the Calabarzon region, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said Tuesday.
“Of course, there will be resistance at first, but we have to do this because they really should not be living in the estero,” Año said in an interview with GMA News. “They should be able to understand.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will kick off the rehabilitation project to reduce the coliform bacteria in the bay and make it swimmable by December.
At a news conference, Secretary Roy Cimatu said the quality of water at Manila Bay known for its famous sunset is “330 million times” dirtier than the waters of Boracay Island.
“On Jan. 27, we will have an initial announcement of establishments not compliant [with the Clean Water Act],” he told reporters.
“A non-compliant establishment could be penalized with a fine of P20,000 to P200,000 per day,” he warned.
Phase one of the rehabilitation effort is the identification of squatter families along Roxas Boulevard for relocation, he said.
The relocation of 20,000 to 30,000 informal settlers in Bacoor, Cavite, and the removal of piggeries along Pampanga River are part of the rehabilitation effort, he added.
“If you go there [in Bacoor], I have been there, you will see too many people staying along the bay,” he said.
“Here in the National Capital Region, our effort will involve the cleanup of the Baywalk area between the Manila Yacht Club and US Embassy, where people often and frequently go and swim,” he said.
“We hope there would be no bloody removal of the informal settlers. There is no need for such. We are prepared to face them,” he added.
Cimatu called on the other stakeholders of Manila Bay to “be part of history” and support rehabilitation efforts.
“This mission is not impossible. This mission calls for dedication and hard work from all those who will help us in this operation,” he said.
He promised to make the coastal waters of Manila Bay fit for swimming again, and invoked a 2008 Supreme Court mandamus to clean up Manila Bay and its tributaries.