Efforts to revive the heavily silted Mahiga River in Cebu province got a significant boost after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secured the commitment and support of 28 private companies and organizations through the agency’s Adopt-an-Estero/Waterbody Program.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, together with Mayors Edgardo Labella of Cebu City and Jonas Cortes of Mandaue City, signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with representatives of companies and organizations taking part in the Mahiga River rehabilitation efforts last July 21 in Cebu City.

The MOA was also signed by the chairmen of six barangays where the 9.1-km river traverses, namely, Apas, Banilad (Cebu City), Kasambangan, Banilad (Mandaue City), Mabolo and Subangdako.

The private entities who signed the MOA as “adopters” of Mahiga River were Aboitiz Power Oil Visayas, A.D. Gothong Manufacturing Corp., Archdiocese of Cebu, ARN Central Waste Management Inc., AWG Development Corp., Banilad Town Center, Cebu Business Park Association Inc.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Cebu Golden Restaurant, Cebu Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Cebu Land Masters Inc., Cebu Rolling Hills Memorial Chapels Inc., Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines-Cebu Wilkins Plant, Dynamic Power Adoptor, Ginebra San Miguel Inc., Global Business Power.

International Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Jollibee Foods Corporation, Jomara Konstruck, Medclean Management Solutions Inc., Mezzo Hotel, New Millenium Petron Service Station, Pollution Abatement Systems Specialists Inc., Pollution Control Association of the Philippines, Inc. Foundation, Sarrosa International Hotel and Residential Suites, SM City Cebu, and The Lucky Group Management and Development Corp.-Gaisano Country Mall.

Under the MOA, the parties agree to develop a Comprehensive Rehabilitation Program to reduce the pollution load of the Mahiga River and its tributaries.

“Mahiga River Creek is a critical waterway in the city and its current condition requires intensified actions from all stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of all rehabilitation measures,” said Director Lormelyn Claudio of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau in Region 7.

According to Claudio, the river’s deterioration has reached the point where it has posed a threat to the safety and health of the communities along its banks, and which the residents and the government can no longer address effectively without help from the private sector.

The DENR, she said, sought assistance and commitment from donor-partners and private entities and organizations as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programs for the provision of interventions to improve solid, hazardous and wastewater management of the river, and for the surface clean-up of its specific segment.

They will also assist in the information, education and communication (IEC) campaign and community mobilization activities of the DENR and local government units (LGUs) to foster harmonious relations with the community and solicit their participation, cooperation and support for the program, among others.

Meanwhile, the Cebu LGUs, in collaboration with EMB 7, shall ensure the establishment of integrated solid, healthcare and household hazardous waste management pursuant to existing environmental laws at the barangay level.

For its part, the DENR—through Region 7 Executive Director Paquito D. Melicor, the Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices and EMB 7—shall intensify the monitoring of industrial and commercial establishments, and undertake regular water quality monitoring of selected points within Mahiga River and its tributaries, to determine improvements in water quality.

One of the DENR’s flagship environmental initiatives, the Adopt-an-Estero/Water Body Program is a collaborative undertaking between and among the estero community, donor-partners, LGUs, other government agencies and the DENR.

The program aims to clean the esteros of wastes, debris and silt, mobilize estero communities in cleaning the estero and enlist their active participation in the actual clean up, and in implementing and preparing plans to sustain a clean estero. #