Pasig River Run poised to break world record

By Katherine Visconti, Princeton-in-Asia Fellow

Posted at Oct 06 2010 12:05 AM | Updated as of Oct 06 2010 09:23 AM

MANILA - The Philippines’ 10.10.10 Run for Pasig River is poised to break the world record for the largest number of participants in a foot race on Sunday, October 10.

Some 140,000 runners are currently registered for the run. But those organizing the event from ABS-CBN Foundation’s Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog (KBPIP), expect only 120,000 actual participants.

Even so, that would be enough to take the Guinness world record title for most participants in a footrace. The record of 110,000 runners has been held for 22 years by San Francisco’s 1988 “Bay to Breakers” race.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Gina Lopez, ABS-CBN’s Foundation managing director, said “it  (record-breaking participation) will send the message that Filipinos care, and that united we can make a difference, and united, we can break world records. We all care about cleaning the river, so everybody should make things happen because this is the pulse of the nation.”

A total of 23,000 runners turned out for last year’s Pasig River marathon. This year’s run is bringing in participants from a variety of sectors, ranging from government offices to business corporations and even schools.

By June, colleges and universities, with the support of the Commission on Higher Education, had pledged over 79,000 student runners. The Philippine National Police, Coast Guard and Navy also promised to have 3,000 of their personnel participate.

Transporting change

Bus companies are the latest group to line up in support of the 10.10.10 Run for Pasig River.

Lopez thanked the bus operators Integrated Metro Bus Operators Association (IMBOA) and Metro Bus Transport (PROBUS) for providing the free shuttle service that will enable the record participation.

All together, the bus companies under IMBOA (Philippine Corinthian Liner, Mannrose Liner, Mayamy Transport, Cher/jkj Express, Mersan Transport, RBM Grand Rally Trans, Everlasting/Guardian Angels and Jasper Jean), and under PROBUS (G-Liner, MALTC, Admiral, Commuters, Don Mariano, Fermex, Royal, Nova, Pamana, HM, Rainbow, Jayross, Aerobus, Hi-Star, Vil 5000, Ma-Fel, Starbus, CityBus, TAS, JRMS, NS, MGP) will provide more than 80 buses during the race.

A few buses will be used as ambulances on the day of the race, and some of the drivers themselves may run.

Presidents and the Pasig

Since the Pasig River was declared biologically dead in the early 1990s, each of the Philippines’ presidents have fought for its restoration.

Under President Fidel Ramos, 5,000 families living along the river and considered to be its major polluters were resettled. The Habitat International Coalition reports that 30% to 40% of those people returned to Manila for economic reasons.

Former President Joseph Estrada also attempted to evict families from the river, but was forced to abandon that plan after a community in Pineda successfully resisted demolition.

After two failed ferry projects along the Pasig River in the 1990s, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo launched the current sucessful ferry service there in 2007. But still, the majority of the 26-kilometer-long river remains polluted.

As chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), Gina Lopez has a hopeful vision for remodeling the Pasig River and the communities around it, starting with the esteros.

Lopez said: “For me, if the esteros and river are clean, the impact is three. One, peace and order. The second one is the economy. History shows us that all over the world, that when the water is clean, the real estate on the two sides of a clean waterway is always the one that’s expensive. The third is health. The reason we have dengue is because the esteros aren’t clean, they’re breeding mosquitos. If the waters are clean, wala ng methane gas going around, and no more bacteria going around, then health will improve.”

Lopez said she will run every year until the river is clean. At least for this weekend, a record breaking number of other runners will likely follow her lead.