With esplanade comes a new Iloilo River experienceBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ILOILO CITY—It’s Iloilo City’s latest fun place, where people can jog, walk, hold a picnic or just enjoy the scenery.
The 1.2-kilometer Iloilo River Esplanade was formally opened on Aug. 19 as part of efforts to rehabilitate and bring back the Iloilo River’s historic past. Thousands of people attended the event.
Built at a cost of P58.7 million, the esplanade stretches from Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue to Carpenter’s Bridge in Mandurriao District. It is intended as a recreational space for walking, jogging, open-air dining and venue for river water sports.
The area is closed to vehicular traffic to encourage runners to experience the scenic river, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog says.
Two more similar projects are being planned to further develop the river.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, who attended the opening of Iloilo River Esplanade, says he will allot around P40 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund for the construction of a 750-meter esplanade on the opposite of the first one. The project is expected to start within the year.
The third esplanade is being planned from Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue to Barangay Nabitasan in La Paz District, which will cost around P80 million, according to Mabilog.
The projects will also involve the relocation of settlers along the banks and removing river obstructions, he says. Some 53,000 people live along the banks.
Dredgers will be permanently deployed at Iloilo River starting September to remove the silt.
The 15-km Iloilo River is the city’s main tributary, passing through 35 of its 180 barangays. It serves as a source of livelihood for fisherfolk and a habitat and nursery for many fish species. It is home to 22 of the country’s 35 mangrove species.
Historians have cited the key role of the river especially in commerce and shipping even before the Spaniards came.
The waterway has declined over the past decades due to illegal structures built along the banks, reclamation, congestion at the Iloilo wharf, overfishing and water pollution.
The esplanades are expected to turn the river into a tourist attraction and complement other attractions and historic sites, says Helen Catalbas, tourism director for Western Visayas.
A bill declaring several landmarks in Iloilo City as legislated tourist sites has been approved by the House of Representatives.
House Bill No. 5495, authored by Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, was approved on third and final reading on July 31 and transmitted to the Senate on Aug. 6. It seeks to declare Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, Iloilo City Central Business District, Fort San Pedro, Jaro Plaza Complex, Molo Plaza Complex and Plaza Libertad Complex as heritage and tourist spots.
The measure mandates the Department of Tourism, in coordination with the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority and other agencies, to prepare a development and maintenance plan for the areas and ensure their preservation.
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