MANILA (UPDATE) - Authorities on Wednesday shuttered part of the iconic Manila Bay following a surge of sightseers at the start of a massive cleanup of its heavily polluted waters.
Orange plastic barriers sealed off the shoreline from the US Embassy to Manila Yacht Club, an area where the sunset lures hundreds of tourists daily.
A 4-foot-high fence will take the barrier's place in the next 3 days to prevent people from swimming off the bay, said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
"Makikita pa rin naman ang sunset at dagat dahil mababa lang naman ang fence," he told reporters.
(The sunset and the sea will still be visible because the fence is low.)
"We don’t have any intention to prevent people from going there. Sana huwag lang nilang itulak ang fence at matumba. Hindi naman puwedeng may nagswi-swimming tapos may naglilinis," he added.
(We just wish that they will not push the fence and cause it to fall. We can't have people swimming there while the cleanup is ongoing.)
The fence and repair of drainage in the area is expected to last 6 months, said Cimatu.
The quality of water off the bay has started to improve since the cleanup was launched last Jan. 27, said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
The fecal coliform content of water samples from the Ermita area went down to 7.9 million most probable number (mpn) from the previous 330 mpn, he told reporters.
The fecal content in the Remedios area also slid to 65 million mpn from 160 mpn, while that of the Manila Yacht Club was at 52 million mpn, down from 1.3 billion mpn, he added.
Despite these improvement, the official said it was still unsafe to bathe in Manila Bay.
Experts earlier said the cleanup of the whole bay and its surrounding areas could take years and is estimated to cost P47 billion. The project came after Boracay island underwent a 6-month rehabilitation that ended in October last year.
Thousands of government workers and volunteer collected tons of garbage from Manila Bay during the launch of its rehabilitation.
With reports from Jekki Pascual, Johnson Manabat and Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News