BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPERSomething’s amiss with the so-called “1st Philippine International River Summit” May 30 – June 1.
Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Rep. Jerry Trenas erected billboards congratulating themselves after a shadowy international body named LivCom picked Iloilo City in 2010 an “awardee”, one of the most “livable communities” because of an imaginary clean up of Iloilo River, an arm of the sea incidentally.
If indeed there were a clean up, it was done only by volunteers from the Coast Guard Auxiliary led by Nilo Sason who collected flotsams on board motorboats that Sason purchased from the river mouth down to Batiano Creek, Oton.Sason’s group can only gather floating solid wastes but not effluents from residential, commercial and government establishments. Iloilo River still holds the record as the Philippines’ biggest septic tank next only to Pasig. Thirty thousand cubic meters of untreated liquid wastes pollute the river daily.
Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog need not look for enlightenment overseas. He only has to look around the city to see the problem that he and his ilk deliberately skirt.Iloilo River over the decades has constricted because mis-developers and greedy residential owners reclaimed it and decimated its mangroves.
The other problem is that 300 or so establishments (to include schools, hospitals and government buildings) from the river mouth to Batiano Creek in Oton constructed buildings sans septic tank or waste water treatment facility. The liquid wastes are untreated and directly emptied on concrete culverts into the river.
The champions of the Dinagyang Ati-Ati and Kasadyahan competitions may be called in again to the summit to entertain by replaying their winning forms. They may be applauded anew by visitors and thanked again by Mabilog and company for giving honor and fame to “my city, my pride”.
Mabilog, his protector and co-brain of the clean-Iloilo-River-movement Sen. Franklin Drilon, other national apparatchniks, and foreign guests, may heap platitudes on how beautiful Iloilo River is and praise Iloilo city for a job well done of “saving” it from pollution.
Drilon and Mabilog have in mind rows of restaurants, hotels and cultural houses sprouting along the banks of Iloilo River where tourists will be flocking to see the wonder of a “clean” river that invites them to go boating, swimming and angling.
Iloilo River was the heart of the city in yonder years that made it truly Queen of the South. The river harbored rows of cargo and passenger vessels plying national and international routes. During the American colonial era, destroyers could dock there. In the fifties after yours truly was born, the river had a car assembly plant, a tire factory, hemp fabrication, a cannery, a shipbuilding facility, dry docks and rows of warehouses, among others. Fishing vessels competed with commercial ships for limited space. They were so crowded that they docked two to three deep in a row from the pier.
All those disappeared except fast-craft passenger vessels.
The river clean up is yet to start except for that done by Sason and company but their area was cut down. Instead of the entire stretch, they are allowed to ply only between the river mouth and Carpenter’s bridge that connects downtown Iloilo City to Lapuz.
Government allots up to P1 billion for the Iloilo River clean up to include resettlement of informal settlers from riverbanks to “model” relocation sites that are replete with roads, electricity and water connections.Bayan Muna and other cause-oriented groups, however, dismissed the project “greenwashing”, posturing to be green to cover up the socio-ecological conditions of the city and the business interest of the elite that Drilon and Mabilog serve.
One beneficiary is the owner of reclaimed fishponds in La Paz which are supposed to be covered by FSLA or “foreshore lease agreement”, fishponds being public domain. The guy already has a bonanza after the government, through the lobby by Drilon, erected the Jalandoni Bridge that connects his property to downtown Iloilo City. The esplanade passing through his property gives him a double whammy selling pieces of land to investors that Mabilog sees flocking to with the river clean-up program.
People on riverbanks live on fishing and doing odd jobs in the city proper. Throwing them away from their sources of livelihood with a token compensation is greenwashing.