Wish to sing hallelujahs to Sen. Frank Drilon for pushing Iloilo River close to the trophy and bag the $200,000 the shadowy outfit based in Australia, Thiess International Riverprize award, dangles for whoever wins the title “cleanest river in the world.”
Iloilo River, an arm of the sea, not exactly a river, is among the four contenders.
Drilon sees mangroves as culprits for silting the pseudo-river, an arm of the sea actually. By ridding it of mangroves, Iloilo River is back to its glorious past as navigable and place for recreation.
But excuse me, Mr. Senator. Mangroves don’t cause siltation and flooding; deforestation and erosion do.
The river is already tagged “biggest septic tank” in the Philippines, after Pasig River, not due to mangroves but to more than 300 business (including three hospitals) and government establishments that directly discharge their effluents to the river. Instead of establishing septic tanks, buildings empty their toilet wastes into the river.
Since pre-Hispanic time, Iloilo River is home to mangroves – a major eco-system that serves as habitat, spawning and breeding ground of fishes, crustaceans, shells, and other denizens of the sea and land to include snakes, bats, monkeys and birds.
International y acclaimed scientist, Jurgenne Honculada-Primavera, further calls mangroves the community’s “first line of defence” against natural calamities.
Now that dengue is exacting heavy toll in Iloilo, more mangroves should have been planted – they are habitat of natural predators of mosquitoes.
Mangroves act as “bio-filters”; they cool the surroundings, thus, are needed nowadays that “global warming” rages. The water they purify percolate on surface gradually seeping down to refill aquifers, thus, ensuring potable underground streams. Their roots, branches, barks, leaves, fruits and flowers provide people with fuel, construction materials, medicines, and food.
Mangroves are 10 times more efficient than mountain forests in “carbon sequestration,” the concept behind modern reforestation activities to reduce carbon compounds from the atmosphere thus, minimize global warming, added Primavera, retired scientist at the South-East Asia Fishery Development Council (SEAFDEC), Tigbauan, Iloilo.
The “beautification program” seeks also to rid Iloilo River of informal settlers (10,000 families), a process funded with P300 million by government. Once mangroves and shanties are gone, tourists will swarm on Iloilo River bringing millions of dollars, spurring brisk economic activities, creating more wealth. Ilonggos will live happily ever after, tra-la-la-la, goes the mantra of Drilon and his parrot Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and the latter’s sidekick, Jepoy Celiz.
Total project costs is P3 billion, according to Mabilog. Instead of compelling establishments to install septic tanks and shut down another pollutant of the river, the city-owned Calajunan Open Dump Site, government would rather rid Iloilo River of mangroves, and still be assured of an international “prestigious” award. Open dumpsites are supposed to be banned now under the Ecological Solid Waste Managment Act. Toxic precipitates or lecheate from the dump site contaminate the Iloilo River.
Recently, Mabilog inked an agreement with Double Dragon, Inc. to build a P135 million terminal for Iloilo – Guimaras vessels. Double Dragon will build the structure on the land owned by the city, and as obligation, will give the latter a measly one percent of the gross income in “profit-sharing.”
Drilon’s tourism ek-ek shut off the Old River Wharf from sea traffic. Fleets of fishing boats were the first to go, the biggest of which to the port of Roxas, Capiz. The ice plants that thrived on the fishing industry shut down. Vessels no longer dock at the wharf ending the livelihood of vendors and stevedores.
The warehouses along the river are gone – the same site which in my childhood gave life to Iloilo when it bustled with shipping activities and travel; when it hummed with ship building plants and dry docks, factories of canned fish, tires and cars production, among others, making the city an envy of the world
Government’s tourism and beautification ek-ek killed the river.