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Groups join hands to save Pasig River


[ Manila Bulletin Online ] February 25, 2009

By JC BELLO RUIZ

The government and private sector have joined hands in realizing a dream of eliminating the "toilet bowl" reputation of the Pasig River in seven years.

Dubbed "Kapit Bisig sa Ilog Pasig" the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI) launched the project aimed at resuscitating the river which has become "a repository of human waste and garbage."

The Pasig River is a 24-kilometer body of water, which stretches from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. Once a major transport route, source of water, and a vital ecosystem, the river is relegated today as one of the most polluted and toxic river systems in the Philippines. The deterioration of Pasig River was said to have started in the 1930s.

Six decades later, it was considered biologically inactive.

Describing the river as something "intimately connected to our history and origin as a people," AFI Managing Director Regina Paz "Gina" Lopez stressed the importance of bringing back Pasig river to life.

The project’s goal is "zero toxic input into the Pasig River," which includes tributaries, esteros, and creeks which lead to it. KBSIP needs to raise at least R700 million to afford the technology and operational expenses to clean the river in seven years.

KBSIP has already begun Phase 1 of its seven-year program with the relocation of informal settlers around Pasig River in Calauan, who are responsible for household wastes thrown into the river. According to a PRRC study, the Pasig River is polluted with 60 percent household waste, 35 percent industrial waste, and five percent solid waste.

The group targets to relocate about 1,100 other informal settlers by June to a relocation site where they are provided with housing, education, health, and livelihood assistance.

Lopez was very ecstatic that they have been getting a lot of support from the government as well as from the private sector.

Among other government agencies helping the project are the Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. are involved in the dredging of the river and clearing of household waste that clog waterways.

The Department of Science and Technology’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOSTITDI) on the other hand is involved in the recycling of discarded plastics, which are shredded to make tiles, bricks, and other items using the equipment turned over by the DENR to KBSIP.

Politicians have also pledged support to the campaign.

But Lopez emphasized the importance of "consciousnessraising" as much as physical efforts to improve the condition of the river.

"No matter how much money you spend to clean the river, the river’s still going to be dirty. We have to change the way we look at the river. We should use the media to awaken the consciousness and the reverence that people should have for the Pasig River," Lopez said.

"Tell the public not to throw any thing into the river," the very energetic Lopez appealed to members of the press during yesterday’s KBSIP press launch at the Makati Park and Garden, Makati City.

"Just imagine if we succeed in cleaning the Pasig River, this can be a model for all the endangered river systems in the country. We’re sending a signal to everybody else that you need to revere the river because it’s not your toilet bowl, it’s your life," Lopez said.

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