MANILA, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in the Philippines has fished out over 45 tons of garbage as authorities start a massive cleanup drive to rehabilitate the heavily-polluted and foul-smelling Manila Bay famous for a scenic sunset view.
Data released by the MMDA on Sunday said a total of 45.59 tons of garbage were hauled up by 11 garbage trucks on the first day of the cleanup campaign.
About 5,000 people joined the so-called solidarity walk along the Manila Baywalk to dramatize the start of the project dubbed "Battle of Manila Bay."
The project will cost the government 42.95 billion pesos (817.6 million U.S. dollars) in the next three years, according to government estimates.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it plans to restore the heavily-polluted bay to its "pristine" state. The bay, which runs in the strip of Roxas Boulevard, is contaminated with human feces and trash coming from sewage.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu expressed optimism that the cleanup campaign will "bring Manila Bay back to life."
"With the commitment and determination of every Filipino to do his share in this rehabilitation effort, we have already won the battle for Manila Bay," Cimatu said in a statement.
The DENR has prepared for an all-out strategy to bring the coliform concentration in Manila Bay to a safe level so that millions of people who reside in the bay region and neighboring areas will enjoy its waters and marine resources without fear of getting sick, Cimatu said earlier.
A report from the DENR Environmental Management Bureau said the current level of coliform bacteria have reached over 330 million most probable number (MPN) for each 100 ml or way above the safe coliform level of only 100 MPN/100ml. It means the bay's coliform level is over 3 million times higher than the safe level.
The rehabilitation will require the relocation of thousands of illegal settlers, whose household waste contribute to 70 percent of pollution in the area, DENR spokesperson Jonas Leones said earlier.
The Pasig River and Laguna Lake, which both flow into Manila Bay, will also have to be cleaned up, according to him.
Early this month, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to close down establishments, including hotels, that empty wastes into the bay.
The Duterte government also plans to relocate approximately 233,000 informal settlers living along the coast of the bay.