SAN PEDRO, Laguna—A community here, in fear of another major deluge, has taken upon itself the task of cleaning up a waterway clogged by huge piles of garbage.
“The garbage has become so thick you could literally step on it without sinking,” said Raymond Vizconde, coordinator of Bayan Muna, which organized the cleanup of the Cuyab-Tunasan River at the boundary of this town and Muntinlupa City.
Armed with rakes and empty sacks, 110 Bayan Muna members and residents from the lakeshore villages of Cuyab here and Tunasan in Muntinlupa City collected garbage from the river’s mouth on Friday and Saturday.
Vizconde said because of limited equipment, they covered only 70 meters of the 12-kilometer tributary but were able to collect garbage, composed mainly of wood planks, used diaper and plastic materials,that filled up two dump trucks. The entire river stretches from Carmona in Cavite to Laguna de Bay.
Still under water
Cuyab is among the lakeshore villages that remained under water since the August monsoon, with 463 families, or about a thousand individuals, still staying in an evacuation center. It also experienced flood that lasted over months after Tropical Storm “Ondoy” in 2009. In Muntinlupa City, about 1,000 families are still in evacuation centers after the August monsoon.
Vizconde said this was not the first time that they initiated cleanups. They also conducted a similar project in the wake of Ondoy. This time, he said, they were moved to do the river cleanup because their members in the lakeshore community were suffering from dealing with the piles of trash.
Rene Madrigal, 57, Cuyab resident and head of the Bayan Muna chapter in the area, had to send his grandchildren to his relatives’ home when flood hit them a few months back.
He said it was only recently that the water in their house, located a few meters from the river, eased, although the other parts of their village are still under knee-to-waist-deep water.
“Because it is clogged, the river overflows when it rains and that scares me,” Madrigal said.
But since he has been out of job as a former overseas Filipino worker, he said moving out was never an option to his family.
In 2010, the environment office of San Pedro and the Lake Management Office (LMO) under Muntinlupa City cleaned up the portion of the river over which both local government units (LGUs) have jurisdiction.
Villagers dumping trash
LMO chief Jet Pabilonia said the garbage the city regularly collected from its eight tributaries, among them the Cuyab-Tunasan River, was “significantly reduced” since, but what greatly contributed to the pileup were the residents themselves dumping trash into the waterway.
Felix Marinas, Cuyab village chief, however, said that majority of the garbage accumulating in the river came from the upland portions of San Pedro and Carmona.
“All those garbage ends up and piles up here because we are at the mouth. We are like the septic tank,” he said.
Marinas said they have a regular schedule for picking up garbage from the households.
Madrigal, on the other hand, said their activity was not only to collect garbage from the river but also to inform his neighbors about proper waste disposal.
The Muntinlupa LMO and the San Pedro environment office have also scheduled their own river cleanup on Monday.
But Bayan Muna is proposing that the rehabilitation of the Cuyab-Tunasan River become a continuing program by both LGUs by hiring 30 people from San Pedro and Muntinlupa.
Vizconde said the proposal was considered by San Pedro, while Pabilonia said they would have to study it first since Muntinlupa has existing garbage collectors.