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San Miguel doubles budget for Pasig River cleanup

San Miguel Corp. (SMC) on Wednesday said it will increase the budget for its ambitious, 5-year project to clean up and rehabilitate Pasig River.

The company said it will double the budget for the project to P2 billion. It will carry out the river cleanup in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, other national government agencies and Metro Manila mayors.

Pasig River, which used to be a major trade route, was declared biologically dead due to the dumping of waste from both residential and industrial facilities that dot the river banks.

“There have been many cleanup efforts in the past, and government has successfully implemented a number of programs these past few years,” San Miguel president Ramon S. Ang said.

“But decades of pollution and compounding problems that have rendered the river biologically dead since the 1990s are too significant and complex to overcome—even for the best-intentioned advocates and organizations.”

San Miguel cited a study published by OurWorldinData.org last May, which said that Pasig River has emerged as the eighth top plastics polluter of oceans in the world, dumping some 38,000 tons of plastics in seas.

Our World in Data is a collaborative effort between researchers at the University of Oxford and United Kingdom-based non-profit, Global Change Data Lab.

“The Philippines alone contribute around one-third of the global total. Since the number of contributing rivers is much higher than previously thought, we will need global efforts to improve waste management and plastic collection rather than targeting only a few of the largest rivers,” according to the study.

The other local rivers that contribute to dumping of plastics in the oceans include Tullahan River, Meycauayan River, Pampanga River, Libmanan River, Rio Grande de Mindanao and Agno River.

The project is San Miguel’s second major river rehabilitation initiative. Its ongoing P1-billion cleanup of the 27-kilometer Tullahan-Tinajeros River, launched last year, supports the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay.

The company is targeting to remove some 50,000 metric tons (MT) of waste from the Pasig River per month, or 600,000 MT of waste per year, using advanced and specialized equipment, which the company has already acquired.

“This is a monumental task, but it is not impossible if we all work together. We are giving this same project the same commitment and focus we have put into the Tullahan project. We are confident that with the political will of President Rodrigo Duterte and the support of local and national government agencies and other stakeholders, we will be able to bring Pasig River back to life,” Ang said. “Our experience in dredging the Tullahan for a year has allowed us to determine the most effective approach and best equipment to be used. In Tullahan, we were able to extract over 260,000 metric tons of silt and solid waste so far and the dredging has reduced the heavy flooding in the cities of Navotas, Malabon, and Valenzuela,” he said.

Following the signing of the memorandum of agreement on Wednesday at the Petron Sales Training Office in Pandacan, Ang and the government officials proceeded to inspect the new dredging equipment at the former Pandacan Oil Terminal.

Cleaning the Pasig River, according to Ang, also bears historical significance for San Miguel. In 1890, La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel was established along the banks of Pasig River, on Malacañang Street in the San Miguel district of Manila. The original site is now part of Malacañang Palace grounds.

Present at the launching ceremony were Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, Mandaluyong Mayor Menchie Abalos, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III, Public Works Assistant Secretary Antonio Mulano and Philippine Coast Guard Station Commander for Pasig Crisanto Anas.

Image courtesy of Contributed Photo

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