By William Casis i FilAm Star Correspondent
The heavily polluted Paranaque River and Estero Tripa de Gallina for the waterways’ long-term rehabilitation was adopted under the expanded effort for the “Battle of Manila Bay” by SM Prime Holdings Inc., led by its chairman Henry Sy Jr. in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In a simple ceremony at the DENR in Quezon City, Sy said the partnership is SM’s expression of support to various government agencies, particularly Pasay City, Paranaque City and the DENR.
Sy, together with SM Prime Holdings President Jeffrey Lim and other SM Prime officials, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu and other senior DENR officials to undertake and lead in the clean-up drive of the two waterways.
During the press briefing prior to the MoU signing, the DENR also announced it will expand the Manila Bay Rehabilitation to include major waterways, including rivers and tributaries that drain into the bay.
Lim said their partnership with DENR and the local governments of Pasay and Paranaque cities is to have a long term solution to reduce the pollution levels and improve water quality of the two waterways.
He also said that adopting the two waterways for clean-up is a milestone for their company as he looks forward for the success and sustainability of the program. He said SM Prime is not new with this undertaking.
In 2012, he said SM Prime entered into a 5-year collaborative undertaking with DENR, the local government of San Juan and its communities called Adopt-a-River Program to clean San Juan River.
According to Lim, the program proved successful and has improved the quality of the San Juan River. He noted that the DENR “is leading all of us (in) the value of working together to provide a healthy safe and clean environment today and for future generations.”
Aside from removing the garbage both floating and underneath the two waterways, DENR and SM Prime agreed to commit a long term solution to have a clean river system by developing and implement a comprehensive program to reduce the pollution levels in the two areas.
“Rest assured that SM prime will always be your partner for environmental cleanliness,” Sy said.
He said they will support and continue to be a partner in the cleanliness and rehabilitation drive of the government, particularly the one being carried by the DENR. Sy cited cleanliness is very important for everyone as “even in our own way we want to show to our people that cleanliness and (being) environment-friendly is very important to us and (to) the next generation.”
Cimatu, who lauded SM Prime’s commitment, said the retail and real estate giant is fulfilling its corporate missions by fostering social responsibility in the communities it serves and by ensuring that everything the company undertakes will safeguard a healthy environment for future generations.
He also cited Pasay City Mayor Antonino Calixto and Paranaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez for their commitment and support “to implement effective strategies and long-term solutions to make these waterways clean, healthy, and safe for their people and for Manila Bay.”
Cimatu admitted that these waterways which drain to Manila Bay recorded failing marks in almost all of the physico-chemical standards set by the DENR.
“We cannot win our Battle for Manila Bay if we cannot improve the water quality of these waterways,” he bewailed.
He cited that based on water quality assessments, the quality of water of these waterways can no longer sustain aquatic life.
He said that the DENR 2018 fourth quarter data (October-December) revealed a staggering coliform (human waste) level at 92 million mpm/100ml but was reduced to 11 million mpm/100ml this January. He attributed the reduced coliform number to strict monitoring of environmental laws and proper waste disposal.
He said most of these wastes came mostly from establishments, and informal settlers living near the esteros and the Paranaque River. He also reported that esteros in Pasay alone recorded a 28 million mpm/100 ml late last year and was reduced to 16 million last January; an estero along MIA Road in Paranaque recorded 110 million but was reduced to 22 million.
He said that , “If we continue doing (the rehabilitation program) we can bring the coliform level to just 200 (mpm/100ml).”
Calixto said they have already warned establishments not to dump wastewater into the esteros (estuary) as an initial step.
Other officials who participated in the MoU signing were DENR undersecretaries Juan Miguel Cuna (Operations), Usec. Rodolfo Garcia (chief-of-staff) and other senior DENR officials.