The rehabilitation of Manila Bay got a major boost after food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. (SMC) agreed to clean up the Tullahan-Tinajeros River System, one of the major river systems draining into the heavily polluted bay.

The SMC entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for its participation in the Adopt-A-River program, a priority initiative of the agency and a key strategy to address the continuing mandamus of the Supreme Court to clean up Manila Bay.

During the MOA signing held at the DENR central office in Quezon City on Monday, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu thanked the SMC, led by its president and COO Ramon Ang, for supporting the Manila Bay rehabilitation by helping rehabilitate and reduce pollution in the river system.

“Let me laud and thank [SMC] for heeding the call and joining us on this massive rehabilitation effort to clean up this very important river system,” Cimatu said.

“By working together, we hope to send a stronger message on how committed we are in securing a healthier future for our rivers and creeks that empty into Manila Bay,” the DENR chief added.

Cimatu said the Tullahan-Tinajeros River System is one such water body that has to be rehabilitated considering that as per DENR Water Quality Status Report, it recorded failing marks in almost all the physico-chemical standards set by for Class C waters.

Class C waters are for propagation and growth of fish and other aquatic resources; for recreation such as boating, fishing or similar activities; and for agriculture, irrigation and livestock watering.

The 59-km Tullahan-Tinajeros River System, which starts from La Mesa Dam in Quezon City and drains into the Manila Bay at Centennial Park in Navotas City, is one of the dirtiest waterways emptying into the bay.

SMC pledged P1 billion for the dredging and clean up of the river system, including the purchase of backhoes, cranes with claw, dump trucks, barges and fuel.

“Work will be done 16 hours a day, six days a week. In two years, the whole 59-km stretch will be clean,” Ang told reporters after the MOA signing.

Ang also called on the DENR to support their efforts by ensuring that illegal businesses along the river system do not hinder the cleanup drive. “Nobody should even build anything within the river,” he pointed out.

Prior to adopting the river system, Ang said the SMC conducted a survey to measure its width and depth, as well as its current condition.

The survey revealed that its original 200-meter width has narrowed to four meters due to illegal structures and it is also filled with trash.

“Immediately, we will invest and buy barges, back hoes, cranes with clam shell, dump trucks including lighting and generators for the cleanup,” Ang said.

Under the MOA, the parties agree to develop and implement a comprehensive program intended to reduce pollution in the river system. They will also coordinate and participate in the regular planning and implementation of the “Tullahan-Tinajeros River System: Adopt-A-River Program.”

For its part, the DENR will ensure the reduction of the pollution of the river system, undertake regular water quality monitoring, provide technical assistance to local government units traversing the river system, and establish appropriate Materials Recovery Facility/System in concerned barangays.

It will also facilitate actions against violations of Republic Acts 9275 (Clean Water Act), 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act) and 6969 (Toxic Substances, Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act); and provide information and education campaign with the communities concerned, among others.

On the other hand, SMC will assist in the dredging and cleanup plan provided by the DENR, lend equipment and provide operators for these, provide funding for equipment operations such as fuel and logistics cost, remove garbage through surface clean up and engineering solutions such as the installation of trash traps and other similar measures.

Cimatu, as DENR secretary, heads the Manila Bay Task Force created by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to expedite the rehabilitation and restoration of Manila Bay’s coastal and marine ecosystems. ###