San Miguel Corporation — together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the local government of Navotas — is tapping more volunteers from its own workforce to scale up efforts to clean and protect Isla Pulo, home to the remaining old-growth mangrove forest in Metro Manila.
The company, which has been holding weekly cleanup activities since October, has so far mobilized some 80 volunteers consisting of employees, residents from Barangay Tanza 1 and personnel from the local government of Navotas, Philippine National Police personnel based in Navotas, the 51st Engineers Brigade of the Philippine Army, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Volunteers have so far collected 3,803 sacks of garbage from the mangrove area, which also serves as a natural barrier that protects nearby cities from storm surges and coastline erosion.
While the primary goal is to remove trash that litters the 3.5-kilometer shoreline and mangrove strip of the 26-hectare island, the initiative complements the company’s clean-up of the Tullahan-Tinajeros river system, and helps in flood mitigation efforts.
“Solid waste pollution of our waterways, shorelines, and major bodies of waters such as our rivers and seas, is a critical problem that we cannot emphasize enough. They threaten not only marine life, our environment, the livelihood of our fishermen, but also, every Filipino living in Metro Manila and even nearby provinces, whose lives are regularly disrupted by flooding during the rainy season,” said SMC President Ramon S. Ang.
“Following reports from our partner government agencies that a huge amount of garbage from the Manila Bay and nearby tributaries have ended up at the Tanza Marine Tree Park, we immediately expanded our flood mitigation efforts, from dredging and extracting wastes from the 27-km Tullahan River, to also partnering with stakeholders to conduct regular clean-ups,” Ang added.
For the effort, SMC shoulders all costs for supplies, protective gear, and meals for all volunteers. It also coordinates with, and organizes all the volunteers from the community and various agencies and offices involved.
Meanwhile, for its P1-billion Tullahan-Tinajeros River System rehabilitation project, the company has removed a total of 593,911 metric tons of silt and solid waste to date. The Tullahan river is a major tributary to the Manila Bay and has been identified by experts as one of the major sources of plastic waste pollution in the world’s the oceans. Six other Philippine tributaries made it to the list, which the Pasig River topped.
The Tullahan-Tinajeros river rehabilitation project has been cited for helping reduce severe flooding in Navotas, Malabon, and Valenzuela. SMC’s dredging teams are currently focused on parts of the river near Catmon and Maysilo in Malabon City.
SMC has also undertaken a P2-billion rehabilitation of the Pasig River and recently received a $1.5 million donation from Japanese shipping giant NYK Line, to be used for the purchase of additional dredging equipment.
To date, a total of 129,600 metric tons of silt and solid waste were removed from the river, with cleanup activities now extended up to the mouth of the San Juan River.
“While flood mitigation is the initial objective of the dredging and cleanup efforts, the long-term goal is to rehabilitate our major rivers to the point where they support healthy marine life, and be safe enough for recreational activities like swimming, and perhaps, even become be a source of potable water. We hope to achieve this with the help of all stakeholders and with the implementation of more effective solid waste management practices and effective waste water treatment throughout Metro Manila,” Ang said.