San Juan City, Manila Water, DENR launch program to clean San Juan waterways

The San Juan City government, in partnership with Manila Water and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched Wednesday its Adopt-an-Estero program to mitigate the city's growing waterway problems.

Mayor Francis Zamora together with DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu and Manila Water President and CEO Jose Rene Almendras throw Mabuhay Balls, a mixture formed into balls which are infused with microorganisms that will eat harmful bacteria to help fight the bad odor of the creek during the start of the activation of the Adopt-an-Estero program at Hoover St. Brgy Addition Hills, San Juan City. Last year, Manila Water signed a memorandum of agreement with San Juan City and DENR to rehabilitate San Juan River. (Mark Balmores)

The program is said to improve the water quality of San Juan River, specifically in Maytunas Creek and Ermitanyo Creek.

“We are happy to partner with Manila Water in this endeavor and are grateful for all their efforts in helping clean up the San Juan River. This is just one of the things that we are currently doing in creating a greener city and taking care of the environment. San Juan is also a staunch advocate of biking and waste segregation, which are both in effect in our barangays,” San Juan City Mayor Francisco Zamora said.

“I’m very optimistic that by partnering with Manila Water, our environmental projects will continue here in San Juan,” he added.

Zamora, together with Manila Water President and CEO Jose Rene Gregory Almendras, Manila Water COO Engr. Abelardo Basilio, MWSS CO Ronald Abrigo, MWSS-RO Chief Regulator Atty. Patrick Ty, and DENR Secretary Ret. Gen. Roy Cimatu led the ceremonial dropping of 1,000 Mabuhay Balls into Maytunas Creek.

The Mabuhay Balls are bokashi balls that are proven to help neutralize toxic water by eating away coliform bacteria and removing foul odors in the waterways. Each ball is the size of a tennis ball composed of clay soil, effective microorganisms, and Mabuhay mix (rice bran, sugar, and salt). 

Aside from the throwing of Mabuhay Balls into the river, Manila Water also installed an aerator at Ermitaño Creek to generate activity in the stagnant water and allow it to flow.

The city will also implement a program together with the Asian Social Institute to conduct Mabuhay Balls Livelihood Tutorial for Communities wherein out-of-school youth and/or displaced workers in San Juan will get training on how to make these balls.

The program will also include studies and seminars to identify strategies and techniques that can be used to allow stable flow of water movement in the creek and to prevent stagnation. 

"We look forward to the training of our communities in creating the Mabuhay Balls not just to clean up our rivers and tributaries but also as a livelihood to our unemployed. Our constituents will be more invested in the cleanup of our creeks and the San Juan River if they are part of the solution," Mayor Zamora said.

Manila Water President and CEO Jose Rene Gregory Almendras said that they are employing technologies in different areas depending on the situation and the studies that they made from the water samples from the river.

Meanwhile, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said he is hopeful that if the agency succeeded in rehabilitating Boracay, then the same can also be done in San Juan.

Cimatu also challenged San Juan to "remove the smell and black water" of its waterway in which Zamora gladly accepted.

“We accept the challenge. I am giving my 100% commitment to DENR, Manila Water, and MWSS." Zamora said.

The mayor also appealed to his constituents to be disciplined in throwing away their garbage and help in maintaining the cleanliness of San Juan waterways.

Zamora added that the Adopt-an-Estero program will also be implemented in Mandaluyong City in February and Quezon City in March.