Cleaning up Metro Manila, one tributary at a time » Manila Bulletin News

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Today, the last day of June, Quezon City announced that it will complete its two-day cleaning up of its four rivers and their 41 tributaries, a yearly activity in line with Presidential Proclamation 237 declaring June as Philippine Environment Month signed in 1988 by President Corazon C. Aquino.

Quezon City has the biggest land area among all of Metro Manila’s cities and thus accounts for a big part of the pollution that flows from around the region into the Pasig River, on to Manila Bay. In last year’s clean-up, garbage from the city’s waterways filled 104 dump trucks, a big improvement from the 194 dump trucks that got filled in 2003.

Since last March 1, other cities of Metro Manila and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) have been cleaning up the scores of other rivers, creeks, esteros, and other waterways in the highly congested area that makes up Metro Manila.

The bigger ones among these waterways are the Lapu-Lapu and Letre canals in Malabon, the Pasong Malapad creek in Caloocan, the Balanti creek in Marikina, the Waling-waling, Tangque, Sta. Lucia, and Viola creeks in Quezon City, the Pasig River Basin in Port Area and the San Miguel, Quiapo, Magdalena, and Maypajo esteros in Manila, the Pinagkatdan creek in Pasig, the Pinagsama creek in Taguig, the Sto. Rosario-Silangan river in Pateros, the Tripa de Gallina estero and Buendia outfall in Makati, the Sto. Niño creek and the Libertad open canal in Pasay, the Coastal open canal in Parañaque, the Dahlig creek in Las Piñas, and the Pasong Diablo river in Muntinlupa.

It is said that when American urban planner Daniel Burnham came to Manila at the turn of the 20th century, he saw the beautiful Pasig river and was reminded of the Seine in Paris. The many tributaries that flowed into the Pasig he likened to the canals of Venice.

However, in the decades that followed, pollution and garbage steadily choked the Pasig and its tributaries. By 1990, the Pasig was biologically dead. Untreated wastes from the thousands of houses and factories along the rivers and esteros killed all life in the river and today threatens the entire Manila Bay. Several laws were passed for the protection and conservation of the bay, leading to the Manila Bay Environmental Management Project of 2000 and an Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy. In 2008, the Supreme Court compelled a host of government agencies, national and local, to implement the plan and submit progress reports.

The Pasig and its tributaries as well as Manila Bay remain polluted to this day. Largely uncoordinated efforts by various local governments and national agencies have not succeeded in cleaning it all up. But a few years ago, city officials succeeded in getting the people along the three-kilometer Estero de Paco to cooperate. Its success has convinced many that the effort to clean up Metro Manila’s waterways can be undertaken, one tributary at a time.

QC held the first day of its cleanup campaign last Wednesday and will continue today, last day of June, Philippine Environment Month. We laud its efforts along with those of other government agencies and civic organizations, confident that the day is not far off when their efforts for the environment will succeed – one river, one estero, one tributary at a time.

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