What better location to drum up awareness and advocacy regarding the state of the country’s rivers than on the Philippines’ most famous yet most abused and neglected river – Pasig River.

Pasig_River_fluvial-webThis was foremost in the minds of the more than 300 representatives from both public and private sectors who gamely boarded 35 boats Tuesday (March 15) to take part in the 18th Annual Pasig River Fluvial Parade. The journey set off at the Plaza Mexico Pasig River ferry service station in Intramuros, Manila and ended with a short program at the Makati Garden Park in Guadalupe, Makati City.

The parade was co-organized by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its River Basin Control Office (RBCO), and the Sagip Ilog Pilipinas Movement (SIPM), formerly known as the Sagip Pasig Movement. Usually held in April to commemorate Earth Day, the parade was held earlier this year in observance of the International Day of Action for Rivers (March 14), as well as part of a series of activities commemorating World Water Day on March 22.

The SIPM has been working closely with the National Solid Waste Management Commission and the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), which are both attached agencies of the DENR, in reducing pollution along the Pasig River primarily through the implementation of Republic Act 9003 or Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje had earlier cited the importance of the event in advocating for a cleaner Pasig River. “The Pasig River plays a very important role in the lives of Filipinos in Metro Manila and its environs, commercially and environmentally speaking. Ideally, we should be able to drink from, and bathe in, this river, yet we have turned it into one big septic tank,” he said.

He then lauded the SIPM for co-organizing the annual fluvial parade, especially in the adoption of this year’s theme “Save Philippine Rivers”, and as he expressed hope that the activity would be replicated in other rivers in the country.

During the short program in Makati City, RBCO Director Vicente Tuddao welcomed the chance to work with SIPM, calling it a “bold step” for all rivers and river basins in the country. “The country has 421 principal rivers and thousands of smaller waterways, including creeks and esteros. The number one problem with water is not availability, but pollution, and we need to implement the provisions of the Clean Water Act and penalize those who pollute the water,” he said.

In line with this, the SIPM and DENR launched the search for the first recipient of the Gawad Macli-ing Dulag Award for River Initiative, Single and Organizational Categories, recognizing exemplary acts of individuals or groups in the protection and rehabilitation of rivers.
SIPM Executive Director Myrna Jimenez said that the search for nominees will open in June, to be validated in September in time for the awarding during next year’s fluvial parade. “We will recognize acts in protecting any of the priority rivers identified by the DENR,” she said.

The DENR and the SIPM were joined for the fluvial parade by representatives from government agencies such as the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority led by General Manager Corazon Jimenez, representatives from the Office of the President and the National Commission for Culture and Arts; different Sangguniang Kabataan officials and barangay units along the Pasig River such as Pateros, San Juan, Paco, Makati and Quezon City; students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines; and sponsors Unilever Philippines and Jollibee.