Gov’t plans to spend P2B to dredge toxic river
CITY OF MALOLOS, Philippines—Close to P2 billion has been allotted for the cleanup of one of the world’s dirtiest rivers, which runs through two provinces and areas in Metro Manila. Officials have set plans to spend the money on one of the simplest but most controversial methods to rid water systems of trash—dredging.
This year’s General Appropriations Act (GAA), which sets the national budget, has allocated P1.9 billion to clean up the Marilao River System (MRS), according to officials of the Bulacan provincial government.
At least P250 million will be spent at the start of the dredging work, according to the provincial government, which says the project has been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority.
Also called the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River, MRS originates from upland towns of Rizal province, traverses Caloocan City and flows into Bulacan, through the cities of San Jose del Monte and Meycauayan and the towns of Santa Maria, Marilao and Obando, before it empties into Manila Bay.
In 2008, MRS was named one of the world’s 30 dirtiest rivers by a nonprofit environmental group, Blacksmith Institute.
The institute said the river had “high levels of pollution” from wastes dumped by leather tanneries and gold refineries in the area. Wastes from open dumps also settled in the river system. Pollution made the water toxic and contaminated marine life.
Early government efforts to clean the river system have failed.
Former Marilao Mayor Epifanio Guillermo had shut down a battery recycling plant that was dumping waste into the Marilao River. On Wednesday, Guillermo said no accounting had been made on how the government spent international donations given for the river cleanup.
Meycauayan City Mayor Joan Alarilla said her late husband, Mayor Eduardo Alarilla, shut down the city dump and built a sanitary landfill to stop pollution at the Meycauayan River.
Causes of pollution
She said small-scale tanneries and jewelry shops were once cited as major polluters of the river system, so the local government imposed stricter rules on waste disposal by these enterprises.
Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado said dredging would be the first stage in the development of a flood control facility along the river system to help address perennial flooding in the towns of Meycauayan, Marilao and Obando.
He said the government also intended to develop an irrigation system by tapping the Candaba Swamp and to implement a program to revive the Pampanga River to address flooding in Bulacan and Pampanga provinces.
The government will also dredge the Labangan Channel, which catches water discharged by Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and upper Bulacan communities. The channel is part of the Angat River system. Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon
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