Manila: The Philippines’ Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered a massive clean-up of the country’s rivers, in a bid to restore the condition of the country’s major tributaries.

Reports reaching Manila said Cimatu issued the order to undertake the clean-up of the rivers within a one-year period during the 4th International River Summit at Radisson Blu Hotel in Mandaue City in Central Philippines’ Cebu. The three day event started last November 22.

According to Cimatu, alleviating the state of the country’s rivers falls under the mandate of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“It is the DENR’s responsibility to improve the conditions of the rivers in the country,” Cimatu said, adding that heads of the agency’s regional bodies have only one year to comply with his rivers clean up directive.

Resilient rivers needed

The Philippines’ being an archipelagic land mass had been gifted with plenty of rivers that serve as source of water, fish and energy, among others. However, rapid urbanisation, growing populations, and climate change have led to the exploitation, pollution, and degradation of the rivers.

Dr. Eva Abal, CEO of the International River Foundation (IRF), a non-profit organisation that champions integrated river basin management, said during the summit that the world needs “a paradigm shift from the way we look at our rivers.”

Abal said people need to be involved, not just in helping rivers recover from environmental damage, but in making these more “resilient.”

Cimatu said the DENR will be continuously monitoring the state of rivers in the country through the help of regional DENR bodies and local government authorities. In a bid to boost efforts, contests will be held six months from now and the region with the cleanest river will be duly rewarded and recognised.

While rewarding those who take efforts towards river clean up, regional directors who fail to comply with the order will undergo an evaluation process of their performance and may face sanction or be replaced.

The Philippines’ International River Summit (IRS) is a biennial multi-partner international initiative mobilised to intensify promotion on river advocacy and governance, internalisation and concretisation of the rivers’ importance to the human race.

It can be recalled that only last October, the Pasig River, Metro Manila and Laguna’s arterial water body and was awarded the inaugural 2018 Asia Riverprize during 21st International River Symposium held in Sydney Australia.

“The Riverprize is not a competition of which river is more beautiful or cleaner. This is the reason why the IRF, comprised of river management experts and professionals from around the world, has given importance and consideration to the rehabilitation efforts of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Committee to bring back the Pasig River system to life,” the IRF said.