DENR rejects non-profit org's study on Pasig River's pollution levels

April Rafales, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2021 12:44 PM

DENR rejects non-profit org's study on Pasig River's pollution levels 1
Children cool off by jumping and swimming in the Pasig River in Manila on Easter Sunday during the country’s dry season as the Metro was placed enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MAYNILA - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has rebutted the outcome of a study conducted by a nonprofit organization, Ocean Cleanup, regarding the status of waste in Philippine waters. 

In April, the study claimed that more than a quarter of rivers worldwide responsible for 80 percent of ocean plastic pollution are found in the Philippines, with Pasig River and 18 other Philippine rivers among the top 50 polluting rivers in the world.

"The world's most polluting river when it comes to plastic is the 27-kilometer Pasig River which runs through Metro Manila, accounting for 63,000 tons of plastic entering oceans from rivers per year,” it also said.

But the DENR said it conducted its own study with the help of international experts where they found out that the method used and the study did not reflect the actual situation on ground, because it used a probabilistic approach.

“The probability of plastic emission in the Philippines found to be very high due to its specific geographical and climatological condition. The probability [was] derived from physical and environmental characteristic including precipitation, wind, terrain, slope, land use, distance to river, river discharge, distance to the ocean and corresponding mobilization and transport capabilities,” Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said.

Contrary to the study’s claims that the Pasig river contributes 63,000 tons of plastic wastes to the ocean per year, the DENR said the volume of actual waste collected in the said river is way lower.

“Based on the record sa ating Pasig river from 2020, there are 7 tons which is equivalent to 216,044 sacks. so ibig sabihin naprevent na kaagad itong sacks na ito na composed of trash na kasama ang plastic, nacontrol na na di mapunta sa Manila Bay and eventually sa ocean," said Engr. Vizminda Osorio, the OIC-Director for the Environmental Management Bureau.

"For the year 2020 up to the present, there are about 138,941 sacks which is equivalent to 4,168 kilograms so yan palang po within 6 months yan ang ginagawa ng ating river warriors from the Pasig river rehab office na nacollect nila,” Osorio added.

They also said that plastic waste do not end up in Manila bay or the ocean.

Meanwhile, the National Waste Management Commission resolution declaring plastic softdrinks straw and plastic coffee stirrer as Non-Environmentally Accepted Product or NEAP that was released in February is still awaiting signatories from the members.

The Commission is tasked to come up with a list of NEAP’s based on Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. The plastic straws and coffee stirrers are the first items to be included in the list in the Philippines.

“We encountered heavy resistance on the passage of this NEAP but the environment prevailed. Majority of the members of the National Solid Waste Management Commission agreed and will sign the said resolution,” Antiporda said.

The SWMC targets to have majority of signatories in the resolution by July for implementation within a year.

Environment groups have been calling on the government to release the list and include the single-use plastic. Antiporda said they have already submitted a list of products to the Department of Science and Technology for further study before finalizing the list. 

“Kasama dito yung cutleries na fork, spoon and plastic knife. Tapos yung plastic labo. Yung mga plastic less .5 microns, yun yung nasa kanila na ngayon,” he said.

However, DOST Sec. Fortunato Dela Peña denied having received any communication from the DENR.

In a text message to ABS-CBN News, he said the office could "not find any communication from the DENR submitting a list of recommended materials for research."

"They might have made mention of that in a meeting on waste management but there has been no submission of a list to DOST," he added.