In 1999, the Philippine Government, under the administration of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, created the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission or PRRC Executive Order (EO) No. 54, as amended by EO No. 65.
The PRRC, a convergence of various national agencies, local government units and non-government organizations, aims to rehabilitate the Pasig River into a condition that is able to support and sustain aquatic life and resources as well as conducive for transport, recreation, and tourism. Its river rehabilitation and management model includes housing and resettlement, riverbank, transportation, and tourism development, flood control, environmental management, and public information and advocacy programs.
From 1999 to 2018, PRRC saved almost 20,000 informal settler families of ISFs (out of the 30,050 target) living along the banks of the river and its tributaries. Many of which were even residing over the estuaries and creeks, and tons of garbage that [had] piled underneath their makeshift houses. Beyond the assistance and new houses, which they can finally own and call home, said families were given new lives consistent with the philosophy of human dignity.
PRRC’s river patrol group heads the recovery of easements, which are transformed into environmental preservation areas (EPAs) in the form of linear parks, greenbelts, and walkways that now serve as alternative access roads and avenues for recreation and ecotourism.
To date, the PRRC has established almost 39,000 linear meters of EPAs along the main Pasig River.
Moreover, through the mandate lodged with MMDA, at least 57 pumping stations are being operated in flood-prone areas to minimize solid wastes in waterways, to improve drainage systems, and to improve the discharge of drainage water from tributaries surrounded by populated areas into the Pasig River.
Other than serving as role models in their communities, PRRC’s river warriors conduct daily cleanups in flood-prone areas not yet reached by pumping stations. From 2012 to 2018 alone, PRRC diverted more than 27 million kilograms of solid wastes from the Pasig River and its tributaries after a series of cleanup activities and clearing and resettlement operations.
Given its limited budget and legal mandate, PRRC says it has been doing its best to introduce research-based water quality improvement technologies to bring us closer to the water quality much desired for the river- Class C level.
Together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Laguna Lake Development Authority, the PRRC initiated the Pasig River Unified Monitoring System Project to standardize the water quality monitoring and data in different stations along the Pasig River.
As continuing advocacy, environmental awareness is imparted to communities through their multimedia information, education, and communication campaigns to encourage people to be environmentally- responsible and law-abiding citizens. PRRC spearheaded the Puso Para sa Ilog Pasig (Love for the Pasig River) and Kontra-Esterorismo (a play of word for countering terrorism in the estuaries) campaigns.
Not in Vain
The Pasig River and its 47 tributaries is, indeed, a tedious process, if not an “impossible feat.” The recovery, however, of each estuary and creek, coupled with the active participation of the community, will ensure the progressive rehabilitation of the Pasig River system, the agency said, adding that the years of hard work and cooperation among government agencies together with the help from private sectors and households for the past 20 years were not in vain.
In a nutshell, more than a hundred species of fish, birds, trees, and aquatic plants are now seen in the river. People now fish, travel and do exercise along the Pasig River and its tributaries. Last October 16, 2018, the Pasig River, through the leadership of Executive Director Jose Antonio E. Goitia, won the Inaugural Asia River Prize given by the International River Foundation (IRF) followed by China’s Yangtze River as the runner-up.
During the announcement, the IRF said the judges were really impressed with the scale of the problem the Pasig River faced and the scale of the response initiated by the PRRC.
Through the 2032 Pasig River Integrated System Master Plan in effect, and with the public’s continued support, Executive Director Goitia is confident that we can sustain and improve our rehabilitation efforts so that the Pasig River can outlive us all for the sake of the next generations to come.
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