(Photo courtesy of Oriental Mindoro-PIO)

Over 9,000 volunteers marked the World Water Day (WWD) in the MIMAROPA region with simultaneous cleanup of 11 rivers, which netted around 22 tons of garbage.

The cleanup coincided with the launch of the Calapan River rehabilitation project in Oriental Mindoro. The river has been suffering from pollution due to solid waste disposal and untreated wastewater discharges.

The cleanup activities, which was organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), gathered participants from the agency’s field offices, partner agencies, local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations, academic, religious, and business sectors and other civil society groups with one goal in mind: to save rivers from pollution, and achieve safe water for present and future generations.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, representing Secretary Roy A. Cimatu in the event, lauded the volunteers, who, after two hours, were able to free the rivers from garbage mostly composed of plastic bags, food packaging, and plastic beverage bottles.

“This shows that when we put our efforts together, we can make a big difference for our environment,” Antiporda said.

“Sabihin mong iilang piraso lang ang napulot nating basura, kapag pinagsama-sama natin iyon, tone-toneladang basura ang matatanggal natin sa mga ilog at sa ating kapaligiran,” he added.

The event was dubbed, “Water for all now and foRiver,” taking off from this year’s WWD theme, “Water for All, Leaving No One Behind.”

Aside from the Calapan River, the volunteers also cleaned up the following rivers: Sabang River in Sablayan, and Pandurucan River in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro; Boac River in Marinduque; and Bangon-bongoy River in Romblon.

In Palawan province, citizens trooped to the Umalad River in Roxas, Abongan River in Taytay, Tagburos River in Puerto Princesa City, Buligay River in Brooke’s Point, Panitian River in Quezon, and Sitio Manggahan 1 and 2, and Bakawan Creeks in Coron.

DENR MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado said that the degrading state of rivers and the rest of the country’s environment prompted the DENR to employ a strengthened and unified command in terms of law enforcement and rehabilitation of critical areas.

“From the regional down to our provincial and community offices, the DENR offices here in MIMAROPA take on the directive of Secretary Cimatu to work as one in protecting and conserving our environment,” he stated.

The rehabilitation of Calapan River comes on the heels of the issuance of cease and desist orders (CDOs) to two fast food chains on March 7, 2019, by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in MIMAROPA Region.

The two were found guilty of operating without discharge permits, and releasing into Calapan River partially treated wastewater that exceeded effluent standards.

Antiporda called on the public to stop patronizing establishments issued with CDOs. “Kung walangtatangkiliksakanila, malamangwalananglalapastangansaatingkaliksasn,” he pointed out.

He also called on the provincial office to furnish concerned municipal LGUs a copy of the violations of the establishments “to serve as basis for temporary cancellation of their business permits.”

Calapan River was designated as a Water Quality Management Area (WQMA) in 2013. Since then, numerous efforts have been undertaken by the city government to restore its water quality, including the passage of several ordinances consistent with environmental laws.

Declaring a water body as a WQMA beefs up protection initiatives as it requires management action by the local government and other stakeholders.

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