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Hope for Philippines rivers

Central Philippines river selected as finalist in international award

Gulf News

Manila: The selection of a major Philippines tributary as a finalist in a prestigious international award for sustainable restoration and management of river basins, offers promise for the country’s rivers.

Senator Franklin Drilon said the selection of Iloilo River in Central Philippines’ Western Visayas region as one of four international finalists in the 2013 Thiess International Riverprize award provides a ray of hope that the country’s river system can still be restored and rehabilitated.

Philippine river systems, especially those that pass urbanised locals, are notorious for being polluted. Much of the pollution is being blamed on the presence of riverside industries as well as illegal settlers along waterways.

Currently, the government said it would embark on a programme to relocate tens of thousands of families living along river embankments and waterways.

“The redevelopment of polluted rivers would only become successful with the collaborative efforts among its stakeholders. I laud the Department of the Interior and Local Government Agency and the chief executives in Metro Manila for finally collaborating in order to relocate 100,000 families living along the river banks and waterways,” said Drilon.

The Senator said river clean-up should not only be viewed not only a flood control measure; but more importantly, it is a step towards making Philippine rivers clean again and becoming the anchors of economic development as what happened in the case of Iloilo River.

Drilon, an advocate of river clean-up said: “The rehabilitation of the Iloilo River is motivated by our desire to alleviate the perennial flooding in Iloilo and to make the river the anchor of economic progress.”

“We must not underestimate the benefits a clean river could provide us: protection from calamities, food, jobs, and economic growth,” emphasised Drilon.

“If we were able to do it in Iloilo, the government, with all its resources, is definitely more capable to clean our rivers and waterways,” he stressed.

Drilon leads the multi-agency Iloilo River Development Council, a consultative and coordinative body with primary goals of improving the river water quality and preserving its ecology while promoting sustainable development of the city.

Prior to the rehabilitation effort, the Iloilo River was in the deteriorating stage because of several factors including pollution, sedimentation, depletion of mangrove areas, and proliferation of man-made constrictions.

“For a once-dead river to be named a finalist in an international environmental award sends a clear message: the redevelopment of rivers in the country is bound to be a success with the strong political will and cooperation among the people,” he stressed.

The Iloilo River is the only river in the Philippines selected as one of four international finalists in the 2013 Thiess International Riverprize award.

The award is given to finalists who demonstrated their outstanding achievement and commitment to restoring the world’s rivers.

According to City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, the full rehabilitation of the Iloilo-Batiano river system started in 2011 and the city hosted the first international river summit in May 2012.