THE Manila Bay cleanup was not delayed by the public health emergency, with various activities carried out this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Monday.

In a statement recapping its program for the year, the DENR said the inter-agency task force overseeing the cleanup launched a solar-powered sewage treatment plant in July; conducted regular clean ups of creeks, esteros and river systems feeding into the bay; and dredged and desilted portions of the bay.

“Our work continues despite the limitations in mobilizing people, especially for our clean-up, monitoring and enforcement activities,” DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, who chairs the Manila Bay Task Force, said.

Mr. Cimatu noted that there was a “significant decrease” in fecal coliform levels recorded in the Baywalk area, Estero de San Antonio Abad and Baseco Beach this year.

The Baywalk recorded a fecal coliform count of 2.2 million most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100 mL), compared to a reading of 5.66 million MPN/100 mL taken last year.

The coliform level in Estero de San Antonio decreased to 19.07 million MPN/100 mL from 43.89 million MPN/100 mL. Meanwhile, the coliform count in Baseco Beach fell to 341,225 MPN/100 mL from 1.7 million MPN/100 mL.

The Manila Bay task force also introduced debris booms which collected floating trash, and silt curtains which kept suspended silt and sediment from entering the waterway.

Earlier this month, a project to provide portable toilets to informal settlers living along Manila Bay was also launched.

“We are optimistic that these measures will really help clean the waters of Manila Bay,” Mr. Cimatu said.

The cleanup and rehabilitation efforts of the bay are outlined in the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (2017-2022) document and administrative order no. 16 issued by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last year.

The plan and administrative order comply with a Supreme Court order to restore Manila Bay waters to levels suited for recreational use, including swimming and diving.

In September, the DENR embarked on a P389-million beach nourishment or “white sand” project using dolomite sand.

In an earlier statement Sunday, the DENR said that its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) was able to designate 244 protected areas (PAs) and “save a dozen species from extinction” all over the country this year.

“Without the legislated and proclaimed PAs in the Cagayan and Marikina River Basin, the devastation of Typhoon Ulysses could have been worse for the wildlife and the communities dependent on these natural ecosystems,” Assistant Secretary and concurrent BMB Director Ricardo L. Calderon was quoted as saying in a statement.

Mr. Calderon also said that 12 species were no longer on the “edge of extinction,” following the BMB’s wildlife protection and enforcement efforts.

This year, the BMB conducted eight wildlife enforcement operations that led to the confiscation of 53 wild fauna and 27.36 kilograms of agarwood worth around P5.6 million. — Angelica Y. Yang