Marikina River is one of the biggest tributaries of Laguna de Bay that cuts through Metro Manila. In 2004, the River was declared biologically dead by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Hence, efforts to revive it were set in place by the Marikina City Government.
In celebration of World Environment Day, a group of seven Greenpeace runners, myself included, joined the Run for the River. The event was organized by a Marikina-based youth group called Woknatoy and supported by the city government. [We learned that Woknatoy is a local dish – a kind of menudo cooked with pickles.] There were an estimated 300 runners for the 3k, 5k and 10k events. Out of the registration fees from this run, Woknatoy would purchase seeds of indigenous trees for a future tree-planting activity which would form the group's contribution to rehabilitation efforts of the Marikina watershed.
Our team, on board the Water Patrol vehicle had arrived onsite by 5:30 AM. Against a backdrop of a pink and blue sky, the Greenpeace runners and the Direct Dialogue team set up a photo exhibit and took out leaflets about the water campaign. Each Greenpeace runner had a flaglet that said, “Greenpeace Water Patrol ako” as a way of encouraging the youth, the main audience of the event, to form Water Patrol units and join Greenpeace in its efforts to protect the freshwater bodies.
In 2009, the Greenpeace Water Patrol trained its lenses on Marikina River for the first time following Typhoon Ondoy (International name: Ketsana). Why? Our partner community from San Mateo, Rizal Province complained of typhoon debris and waste being bulldozed into the Marikina River allegedly by the Barangay Nangka and Marikina City officials at that time. The Environmental Management Bureau has since issued an order directing these local officials to clear the river of debris.
Today, the campaign is focusing on the industrial pollution of Marikina River and the fact that we don't know what hazardous chemicals leave the discharge pipes of facilities along the river. We've been calling on industries to stop discharging toxic chemicals into the river and to find ways to eliminate toxic chemicals in their products and product processes, and substitute these with safer alternatives. This is the only way that we could effectively protect our rivers from industrial pollution.
All seven of us finished the race in good time. The course was set very close to the river so that the runners would see its state and what needs to happen. There is a long way to go in terms of rehabilitating the river. It's going to take decades and millions of precious pesos to do so. The first step that runners took that day, is also a step closer to the goal. I hope that these efforts by government, by industries, and by the communities will be sustained. I may not see the day when the water will turn from brown to blue, but maybe tomorrow's children will.