Thursday, August 30, 2012

'Clean esteros first before river'

Tempo published this article on August 30, 2012. It can also be accessed at:

MB Research

Estero de Paco (August 2012)
Manila, Philippines – “If Pasig River is clean, the economy will jack-up big time!”

Thus declared current Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) chairperson Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez, in an interview with MB Research, adding that her approach to Pasig River’s rehabilitation has a totally different strategic impulse.

“Contrary to the strategies employed by the previous government, the idea now is to clean the tributaries before proceeding to the main river,” Lopez boldly stated.

Merely cleaning the main waterways, dredging or any kind of aggressive projects, which require spending a lot of money is both a “waste of time and resources,” according to Lopez.

Lopez, who is also the managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc. (AFI), has been seen active in effecting rehabilitation efforts to Metro Manila’s major estuaries long before assuming the PRRC chairmanship. [more]

AFI’s environmental arms, Bantay Kalikasan and Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig, have contributed to the improvement of The La Mesa Resort and Ecological Park as an environmental hub for fishing and recreation, and the restoration of Pasig River, respectively.

Former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed Lopez to head PRRC on May 4, 2010, which President Benigno Aquino III later affirmed.

Meanwhile, former First Lady and Pasig River rehabilitation advocate Ming Ramos, in a separate exclusive MB Research interview, expressed her approval of Lopez’s “clean-estero-first“ approach in reviving Pasig River, while she cited Lopez’s advantage of mobilizing resources through the media.

“Yes, that is a good idea! [Lopez] has the media, that is why plans are moving forward,“ Mrs. Ramos said.

Lopez compared Pasig River to the human circulatory system, with Manila being the “heart.“ She said that fixing the “veins“ ­ tributaries or “esteros“ ­ will ignite “catch-up effect“ on other cities. This also meant relocating informal settlers.

“It is very important that we take away the illegal dwellers. Whatever you do, if there is continuous throwing of garbage, and the river serves as their septic tank, nothing will happen,“ Lopez pointed out.

At present, PRRC is working with two water companies, Maynilad and Manila Water, that will redirect the sewage to the treatment plants.

“You can’t clean the river unless you address the sewage problem. It’s a structural problem. We can’t fix it by just saving it; it’s superficial. We have to go inside and fix the structure,” she explained.

“There are 48 esteros, and they are really bad. We chose Estero de Paco, just to show it could be done,” Lopez assessed.

Barangay 671, Zone 73, Estero de Paco chairman Norma Desiderio confirmed this change in a separate MB Research interview.

“Today, wastes are no longer directed into the river. The sewerage system is administered by water companies,” Desiderio said.

On the other hand, “River Warriors,” PRRC’s modern version of the environmental police, make the program one step closer to the river’s long-term rehabilitation. Safeguarding and maintaining the river are their primary concerns.

The biggest problem, though, is the consciousness of the people who live in ‘esteros,’ according to Lopez.
“We need to shift the consciousness into something that is more clean, more disciplined – then, we can keep the river,” Lopez concluded.

PRRC, together with local government units (LGUs), the National Housing Authority (NHA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), focuses on building public awareness, while implementing actual river rehabilitation strategies. (TO BE CONTINUED)

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