MANILA, Philippines - The “seat of power” in the country will soon go back to its pristine self once a clean-up drive in marine channels near the Pasig River is implemented, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission Chairperson Regina Paz Lopez said.
In the Pasig River Forum held at the ADB Headquarters in Ortigas on Tuesday, Lopez said the transformation of esteros near Malacañang will begin this year or early next year, which shall also boost commerce in the area.
The clean-up of the esteros is part of the rehabilitation of the Pasig River, an outlet that drains excess water from landlocked Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. The Pasig River has a network of at least 48 esteros.
Set for clean-up also this year are: Mahabang Ilog, Pateros River, Pasong Tamo Creek, Estero de Uli-uli, Estero de Aviles, Estero de Quiapo, Estero de San Sebastian, Estero de Sampaloc, Estero de Valencia, Estero de Concordia, Estero de Balete, Estero de Provisor, Estero de Santibañez, Estero de Pandacan, Estero de Tanque, Estero de Sta. Clara.
Other tributaries in Quezon City, San Juan, Mandaluyong and Taguig are being scheduled until 2014.
Lopez said President Benigno Aquino III has allocated P10 billion a year for the rehabilitation of the Pasig River, which is seen to boost the livelihood and welfare of communities near it.
Lopez gave a snapshot of possibilities for other areas with the rehabilitation of Estero de Paco. The clean-up started 15 months ago.
Estero de Paco is one of the largest tributaries flowing into the Pasig River. Today, Estero de Paco is now a snapshot of what it once was.
Lopez said the cost of land in Estero de Paco is currently estimated at P4,000 square meters. In 20 years time, land value is expected to shoot up to P48,000 per square meter or a total of P22.45 billion.
Taxes and other revenues for the local government are estimated to increase to P1.3 billion, she added.
Besides monetary benefits, families living near Estero de Paco have also reaped other developments since the rehabilitation began.
“Each household loses an average of P3,500 for temporary transfer to other locations, repairs and clean-up, and income loss due to failure to report for work, every flood incidence,” Lopez said. This is because the estero has become too shallow with silt and garbage.
Now, the situation has been reversed, she said.
In terms of health, Lopez said: “A sample pre-survey questionnaire taken from 7,000 households living within 200 meters from the 2.7 km Estero de Paco, 85% of the respondents revealed that they spent about P2,659 before Estero Clean-up and P1,840 for a savings of P819 a month.”
Lopez said the project is not yet over.
In a declaration signed also today, stakeholders said: “We recognize that the Pasig River offers opportunities for employment, transportation, recreation, tourism; it affects income, food, water, livelihood and amenities. As such, it is essential that the Pasig River be restored to its pristine condition...”
The stakeholders said water quality will be improved in the esteros via dredging and other means.
“The targeted result is reduced pollution loading by at least 50% by 2016 and water quality at class C by 2020, thereby, making the river and the esteros congenial to the general well-being of the people,” the declaration reads.
In a separate speech, ADB Director General for the Southeast Asia Department Kunio Senga said: “Sustainable solutions require strong partnerships. All sectors— governments, the private sector, civil society, development institutions, media, and others -- play important roles in tackling the huge challenges we face in rehabilitating the Pasig River.”