By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu has observed several violations, including the three-meter easement from the edge of Pasig River, during an inspection of the river on Wednesday.
The Pasig River tour gave Cimatu a picture of the water body’s physical condition, as well as the structures and establishments in the riverbanks that affect the river’s water quality.
Cimatu, as the newly-appointed chair of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), led the technical inspection of the river and pledged to get rid of informal settlers and go after polluters of the historic body of water.
He was joined by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Danilo Lim and officials of PRRC, Philippine Coast Guard, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the more than two-hour inspection tour.
As they traversed the length of Pasig River from Manila to Makati, Cimatu took note of several violations including the three-meter easement from the riverbanks.
“We have the authority to restore the three-meter easement, and MMDA and PRRC are working on this,” Cimatu said.
Based on Presidential Decree 1067, the Water Code of the Philippines, banks of rivers and streams and shores of seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing, and salvage.
However, MMDA Resolution No. 3, series of 1996 adopts the uniform 10-meter easement from the existing shoreline, banks or streams along the Pasig River.
According to Cimatu, the 10-meter easement along the Pasig River is subject to expropriation.
He also saw some 1,000 informal settler families (ISFs) near Del Pan Bridge and vowed to relocate them.
“Relocation is our priority. We will take immediate action. We will remove and relocate the ISFs in coordination with the National Housing Authority,” he said.
Cimatu said that during his recent meeting with local government officials, including barangay captains, he warned them of administrative and criminal charges should they allow relocated ISFs to return to their previous settlements.
The DENR chief said that outfalls discharging wastewater into the river will be checked to monitor water quality, as well as illegal discharges.
“The moment we see a private outfall whose discharge is not according to standards, we will issue them a notice of violation (NOV),” Cimatu warned.
He noted that establishments which were earlier issued NOV have been made to pay fines for every day that they did not comply. “We will not let this pass. We will bring these to the Pollution Adjudication Board,” he added.
Cimatu also said the regulated and proper use of the river will be observed, referring to the barges docked along the river that deliver raw materials to the factories, and to the makeshift junk shops along the riverbanks.
“We have to move them out because they contribute to the low quality of the water in the river,” he said.
The DENR chief said that immediate action will be taken on the large amount of water hyacinths in the river.