The discovery of live coral cover within the waters of Manila Bay buoyed hopes that the heavily polluted water body could still be restored to its pristine condition.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, who heads the inter-agency Manila Bay Task Force, said recent findings that coral reefs are still thriving in many parts of the bay give government more reason to proceed with the rehabilitation.

“With the vibrant underwater life still teeming in several areas in Manila Bay, there is hope that we can still revive it to what it used to be,” Cimatu said.

The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), the research arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), recently conducted an inventory of the coral ecosystems within Manila Bay and found out that many of them are thriving despite environmental and human pressures.

ERDB supervising science research specialist Jose Isidro Michael Padin said majority of the coral cover is found in Corregidor and Caballo Islands in Cavite province.

“Nearly 72% of the estimated reef area is found in Cavite. The reef sites in Maragondon and few stations in Corregidor and Caballo Islands had fair to good live coral cover,” Padin said.

Padin, however, said these reefs are continually threatened by sedimentation, nutrient contamination, reduced water clarity, and high fishing pressure due to increased vulnerability harboring the bay.

According to Padin, runoff sediments and nutrients had been documented to cause coral mortality, but the reef areas remaining at the historic bay are located proximate “at its mouth.”

Based on the coastal resource map prepared by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority or NAMRIA, the Manila Bay’s coral cover spans 293.68 hectares, but this data does not yet include that of Mariveles in Bataan.

ERDB Director Sofio Quintana said that the bureau is conducting “ridge-to-reef” research on Manila Bay.

“We are seeking for a definite connection among risk factors. Right now, we are trying to gather more data on informal settler families, air and water quality, and habitat to make scientific studies relevant for future projects,” he said.

Quintana added that the ERDB is trying to come up with a unified framework for such projects which when consolidated properly, could make an inference on the status of the Manila Bay area.

“We also want to provide reference in the decision process of the policymaking bodies with the data backed-up by research. If there are existing policies, maybe we could harmonize and align researches to these policies,” the ERDB director said. ###