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Kape kag Isyu/ With Nilo Sason and Kgd. Jeffrey Ganzon

Since 2001, a group of volunteers collected over 300 metric tons of flotsam at the Iloilo River. 

Sason in black cap and khaki uniform: pure voluntarism

“We did it on our own,” recalls Nilo Sason, a businessman holding the rank in the Philippine Navy Reserve Command as commander.

His group, the 6th Philippine Navy Auxiliary, in two or three motorized outriggers, cruises the Iloilo River from its mouth upstream for the single purpose of collecting flotsam – plastic wrappers and styrofoam. 

Sason is the guest today at Kape kag Isyu and shared his experiences with the panelists comprising Peter Jimenea, Larry Locara, Joel Estuche, Nitz Gobuyan and myself.

He bought the water crafts himself and paid for their maintenance plus food for volunteers in their daily sorties. His group can be seen regularly on board two “pumpboats” or motorized outriggers, and a rubber boat. The garbage they collected are piled on a bamboo raft until they reached the volume convenient for the garbage collector to dispose.

Last year, Sason and fellow volunteers were recognized by the national government which awarded it the “Gawad Kalasag” Award for being at the forefront of a river clean-up and rescue operations.

The 6th Philippine Navy Auxiliary led by Sason is also active in rescue operations. In June 20-21, 2008, whenIloilo was swept by the biggest flood ever in the aftermath of Typhoon Frank, the group was among the first to respond to rescue people in flooded areas.

Iloilo City lately grudgingly acknowledged the group and committed its counterpart by providing fuel for the boats, but not after littering the city with giant tarpauline billboards bearing the grinning faces of, and congratulating, Rep. Jerry Trenas and Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog for their “successful efforts” in cleaning up the Iloilo River, that placed Iloilo in the international map of successful river clean-ups. 

An international body accorded Iloilo River an award of $50,000 for qualifying in the “Globe Awards on Liveable Communities”. The two persons whose grinning faces are flashed in the billboards did not even bother to acknowledge the real persons–Sason and fellow volunteers–behind the clean-up.

“We are not after recognition,” notes Sason. “We only want to see a clean river that we can be proud of.”

The other half of the show has Kagawad Jeffrey Ganzon as resource person. 

Ganzon has introduced a resolution calling for representation by senior citizens in the all local legislatures, in recognition both of their contribution to society and being “repositories of knowledge and wisdom”.

“Our history and those of other countries show the respect toward elders,” explains Ganzon. “Everywhere, different societies have their council of elders to govern communities or serve as advisory body to the rulers.”

“Sa mga Insik diri, daku ang kabug-aton sg hambal sa tigulang (Among the Filipino-Chinese here, the word of elders matters a lot),” he stresses. “Kun may decision nga pagahimuon, masami naton ginahambal: konsultahon ko anay mga tigulang (In making important decisions, we often say ‘let me first consult with my elders’ “). 

Recognition of the role of senior citizens is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution but it still needs an enabling law to mandate the representation of senior citizens as ex-officio members of legislatures from the province down to the barangay. 

Ganzon’s resolution asking the Congress to enact such law, however, elicited only indifference among members of the Iloilo City Council. Incidentally, Ganzon is the lone member from the opposition at the city legislature; the rest are allies of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Rep. Jerry Trenas.

A resolution is a mere expression of collective sentiment and creates no obligation nor imposes any penalty or financial commitment. Kgd. Plaridel Nava recommended the proposed resolution to the committee level “for study”.

Ganzon is the only at the council who was not given a “city development fund” (similar to pork barrel) and as consequence, cannot deliver any project to benefit the senior citizens. He chairs a nondescript committee on senior citizens while more power committees are apportioned to the majority.

“If the majority is unwilling to pass the resolution I will directly go the senior citizens and solicit their advise. Most likely, we will lobby directly with congress to make their voices heard,” Ganzon vows.

Host Peter Jimenea who disguises himself as “junior citizens” and panelist Nitz Gobuyan who proudly tags herself senior citizens, prod Ganzon to continue his advocacy.


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