Gov't mulls 'radical' steps vs Pasig River pollution

Published June 10, 2021, 4:26 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government is looking into possible “radical” moves to clean up and rehabilitate Pasig River after expressing dismay that it emerged as the world’s top plastic polluter.

San Miguel Corporation formally launched its P2-billion Pasig River rehabilitation initiative, which will extract 50,000 metric tons of silt and solid waste per month from the historic river, or 600,000 metric tons per year, using advanced and specialized equipment. The project is supported by the DENR, DPWH, DILG, the Philippine Coast Guard, and Metro Manila local governments, including Manila, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Pasig.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque admitted that Pasig River’s latest description was a “badge of dishonor” that indicated the need to step up the enforcement of laws related to proper waste disposal and pollution.

Pasig River’s dismal situation should be “a test of our law enforcement capability,” he added.

“Ito po ay problema nga (This is a problem) that has existed for many, many years now ‘no. Pero I’m hoping that with this badge of dishonor eh baka po maging radikal din ang mga hakbang na gagawin ng ating gobyerno para malinis na once and for all, iyang Pasig River na iyan (the government might resort to radical steps to clean up Pasig River once and for all),” he said during a televised press briefing Thursday, June 10.

A study released by the Ocean Cleanup showed Pasig River as the top plastic-emitting river in the world. The 27-kilometer river, traversing Metro Manila, reportedly accounted for 63,000 tons of plastic entering oceans from rivers every year.

Roque expressed sadness over the polluted state of Pasig River, saying this was not something to be proud of.

“Nakakalungkot po iyan (It is saddening), that is not something na we should be proud of. Dati nga po ay mayroon pa tayong komisyon just on Pasig River, pero wala ring nangyari (Before we had a Pasig River rehabilitation commission but nothing happened),” he said.

“Sa akin po, talagang kinakailangan ipatupad ang ating existing laws, ipatupad iyong obligasyon ng mga water concession agreements na magkaroon talaga ng wastewater treatment at ipatupad talaga iyong pagbabawal ng pag-discharge ng kahit anong nakakasira sa kalikasan diyan po sa Pasig River (For me, we really must enforce our existing laws, enforce the obligation of the water concession agreements to install wastewater treatment and enforce the prohibition against the discharge of any waste into Pasig River),” he added.

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) earlier pledged P2 billion to implement a five-year project to clean up and rehabilitate Pasig River in partnership with several government agencies and local government units.