THE OUTSIDER (Melandrew T. Velasco): Saving our bodies of water
The problem of water pollution is a concern throughout the world.
Agricultural runoff, industrial wastes, plastics, and sewage and wastewater are among the leading causes of water pollution that has affected the country’s bodies of water.
Government programs to address the water pollution include the Adopt-an- Estero Program, a collaborative undertaking between and among the estero community, donor-partner, local government units concerned, other national government agencies and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). According to the website https://water.emb.gov.ph/ , there are 551 adopted water bodies and 1,136 donor partners. The program is a response to the Supreme Court continuing mandamus for agencies to clean up Manila Bay. The esteros and waterways with the wastes, debris and silt empty into Manila Bay and thus, contribute to its pollution.
San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is among the partners of DENR in the government effort to clean and rehabilitate the water bodies to mitigate flooding with the hope of restoring the marine life that has been destroyed. The first collaboration between DENR and SMC involved the rehabilitation of the Tullahan-Tinajeros river system, a major tributary of Manila Bay. The clean-up involved the extraction of 1.12 metric tons of wastes from the river and Php1 billion financing by SMC. Started in 2020, the project was completed in 2022. The other water body being cleaned by SMC is the Pasig River.
Recently, SMC has expanded its collaboration with the government to rehabilitate water bodies with its “SMC’s Adopt a River Program”. The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between SMC and DENR, DPWH, Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor Remulla, Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda, and Navotas City Mayor John Ray Tiangco manifested SMC’s commitment to rehabilitate three more river systems and tributaries in Luzon.
To be rehabilitated are the river systems in Bulacan, Pampanga River, Marangondon River and other tributaries in Cavite, water ways in Navotas City, San Pedro River in Laguna, and San Juan River.
The river systems in Bulacan to be rehabilitated will include the Meycauayan, Maycapiz-Taliptip, and Mailad Rivers, the Bambang Creek, Marilao River, Sta. Maria River, Guiguinto River, Pamarawan River, Labangon-Angat River, Malolos River, and Hagonoy River.
Pampanga River is the second largest river in Luzon after Cagayan River and traverses Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. It drains into Manila Bay.
Meanwhile, Maragondon River is one of the six major rivers of Cavite Province. It originates from multi-sources from the neighboring upland municipalities and through its tributaries empties into Manila Bay. San Pedro River in Laguna likewise outflows into Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay.
Waterways in Navotas to be cleaned up will cover Muzon River, Batasan River, and the Navotas Filipinos.
The rehabilitation of the rivers is a commitment of SMC in the pursuit of environment protection. All cost in undertaking the project will be shouldered by SMC. “We are doing this as a public service,” said SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang.
Rehabilitating water bodies require huge investments and technical know-how. SMC, with its dredging equipment and experienced manpower involved in prior river rehabilitation works is an ideal partner of government in similar projects.
During the signing ceremony, Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga commended SMC for its support to government activities geared toward achieving its objectives especially where the environment is concerned.
Once the rivers are rehabilitated, the communities living in the areas will reap benefits. It will be recalled that with the rehabilitation of the Tullahan-Tinajeros river system which resulted in the increase of its water-carrying capacity, flooding in the low lying areas abated. With the inclusion of Maragondon River in the Adopt-a-River Program of SMC, flooding in Cavite is expected to be minimized, if not totally eradicated.
Although it takes some time for a water body to heal from its polluted state, there is hope that its waters will become once more safe for recreation and as habitat of marine life, and a source of livelihood for fisher folk.
Rehabilitating water bodies brings to my mind former U.S. president Lyndon Johnson who said that no one has the right to use rivers and waterways as a sewer. “The banks of a river may belong to one man or one industry or one State, but the waters which flow between the banks should belong to all the people,” he was quoted.
The collaborative effort of SMC and the government to rehabilitate the rivers is the biggest so far in the country. While there are private companies willing to help in government programs for environment protection, every Filipino can help nurture the environment by managing ones wastes to complement the programs.
This noble deed by SMC under RSA has earned plaudits from the officials of the local government units involved in the program. Cavite Governor Juanito Victor Remulla said it spot on: “(Ramon Ang) brings us together to realize there is hope for this country if we act together.”