Tuesday, September 04, 2012

'River Warriors' formed for Pasig

Tempo published this article on August 31, 2012. It can also be accessed at: 

MB Research

Manila, Philippines – A concrete sidewalk adorned with flowers and floating plants, illuminated at night by a line of lamp posts, is how the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) and the local government picture “esteros“ that feed into Pasig River in just less than 10 years.

PRRC chairperson Gina Lopez takes pride in the successful rehabilitation of Estero de Paco in a span of 15 months, with public-private participation. Estero de Paco now serves as a model for succeeding rehabilitation drives in other tributaries ­ and as proof that actual rehabilitation can be done.

Lopez tapped two doctorate degree holders to conduct a survey regarding the “face-lifted“ Estero de Paco’s impact among residents within its jurisdiction. [more]
The PRRC-sponsored survey questionnaires covered issues on crime, health and sanitation, and general satisfaction.
The survey revealed that seven of 16 barangays reported 40 percent fewer crimes per blotter incident. Among the respondents, 89 percent felt less sick, 85 percent had lower medical expenses, 97 percent had more community pride, 89 percent felt safer, 97 percent had peace of mind, and 97 felt more satisfied.

“This means, if the `estero’ is clean, not only the economy will benefit. The community will also feel God, about each other ­ their souls, spirits, and emotions,“ explained Lopez.

Barangay 671, Zone 73, Estero de Paco chairman Norma Desiderio affirmed these survey results in a separate interview.

“All of the residents are happy. We are thankful that a project like this was done in our barangay. It is cleaner and we feel safer now. Just recently, our barangay was even chosen the cleanest and greenest barangay in Estero de Paco,“ Desiderio relayed.

With regard to the successful pursuit of rehabilitating each tributary that feeds into Pasig River, Lopez cited that “the key component is the River Warriors.“

PRRC’s version of the “environmental police,“ River Warriors take the responsibility in ensuring the esteros’ cleanliness and in guarding the area against potential polluters and informal settlers. The campaign, made known to the public through “Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig,“ started at Estero de Paco in 2009.

River Warriors continue to “bloom into a force for the common good“ and “as a sustainable strategy“ to protecting the investment and gains of Pasig River’s restoration, according to Lopez.

PRRC provides military training to River Warriors, who are mainly composed of residents along riverbanks, as endorsed by their respective barangay chairmen.

“We unite them ­ `with honor and with courage, do your duty, and protect… be a river warrior!“ said Lopez.

Meanwhile, Desiderio emphasized that every barangay chairman looks for the most diligent citizens when it comes to endorsing River Warrior candidates to PRRC.

River Warrior Edmer Ramos of Barangay 671, Zone 73 belongs to the pilot batch of those “water guards.“

“When Gina Lopez went here to relocate the squatters, she asked if there were any who wanted to join the River Warriors who would be given shelter and make a living. That’s the time I joined,“ shared Ramos.

Ramos recalled that during the initial campaign period, River Warriors provided purely voluntary work and “were okay to receive even just a few sacks of rice in return.“

Today, PRRC gives River Warriors corresponding wages for working full-time.

A father of five children, Ramos emphasized how the campaign helps his family’s day-today survival.
“As long as you’re striving hard, there’s no way you’re not gonna make it. River Warriors are being given money enough to survive,“ he said.

PRRC evaluates River Warriors’ performance twice a year and are given `hearts’ corresponding to their work just as generals earn their medals.

The additional benefits they receive depend on the number of `hearts’ they acquire (With reports from Enrico G. Macatulad, Intern / University of Santo Tomas). (TO BE CONTINUED)

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