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Senators, Bulacan execs: Sustain river rehab

/ 06:32 AM July 21, 2017

DIRTIEST Once described as among the dirtiest rivers in the world, the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System is again the subject of cleanup plans. —PHOTO COURTESY OF BULACAN PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE

Cleaning up the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System (MMORS) will require constant dredging even if the task takes years to complete, according to senators and Bulacan officials who attended a consultative meeting in Manila on Tuesday.

The rehabilitation of MMORS, once branded as one of the 30 dirtiest rivers in the world, started in 2008 but it was not given full attention due to insufficient funding for dredging operations. The cleanup operation requires P2 billion, which has to be included in the 2018 national budget.

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Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment, urged the government to conduct an annual dredging to keep the pace of rehabilitating the river system serving Valenzuela and Caloocan cities in Metro Manila, and Meycauayan and San Jose del Monte cities and Marilao, Obando and Sta. Maria towns, all in Bulacan province.

“Maintaining a river is work we will have to do for the rest of our lives. It is eternal work,” Villar said.

Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado sought the help of Villar and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, a former Valenzuela City mayor and representative, to improve rehabilitation work at MMORS.

The river system suffers from pollution attributed to heavy industries in the area. But the river also catches 75 percent of domestic wastes produced by 3.5 million residents living along the riverbanks, said Lormelyn Claudio, Central Luzon director of the Environmental Management Bureau.

Gold smelting and leather tanneries operate in Meycauayan, a battery recycling firm is hosted by Marilao, and heavy machinery industries are active in Sta. Maria and in the cities of Valenzuela and Caloocan, Claudio said.

Badly designed septic lines also contribute to the pollution, she added.

Villar discouraged the use of dredging machines and suggested tapping amphibious backhoes to sustain work without damaging the river ecosystem.

She said she would ask her son, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, to supply backhoes for the MMORS rehabilitation.

“I sympathize with [the local governments undertaking MMORS rehabilitation] because we also had money problems in Las Piñas when we cleaned our river,” she said.

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Villar said the key to the cleanup program was proper waste segregation.

Gatchalian said he filed a bill seeking to institutionalize a management and administration system for MMORS. Valenzuela used to be part of Bulacan until its inclusion in Metro Manila in 1978. —CARMELA REYES-ESTROPE

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TAGS: Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System (MMORS), rehabilitation of MMORS, Sen. Cynthia Villar
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