Ka Noli Abinales is a community leader from San Mateo, Rizal Province in the Philippines. I have worked with him for more than a decade on different issues. This time, it is solid waste.

The Doña Pepeng Subdivision where Ka Noli lives was engulfed in more than 6 feet floodwaters during Typhoon Ketsana (Philippine name: Ondoy). After all, their community is located right beside the Nangka River, a major tributary to the Marikina River. With the unprecedented volume of rainwater that the typhoon brought and with no more forests to hold some of that water and silt back, it was but natural for the river to swell to levels never before seen.

After the waters receded, I had the chance to visit Ka Noli’s community. There we learned that the Marikina City government and the Metro Manila Development Authority had been dumping mud and flood debris into the Nangka River which they share with San Mateo. As days went by, the dump continued to grow, impeding the flow of water resulting in the San Mateo river bank being eroded. Members of Ka Noli’s community feared for their lives with the next big rain.

So we took action with Ka Noli’s group, Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition. We raised the issue in public via media. GMA7’s TV show Imbestigador, brought DENR-NCR personnel to the site to do an inspection with us.

Last Friday, Oct. 30, 2009, the DENR released the results of their investigation. They recommended that the Marikina City government “immediately institute mitigating measures towards the removal of barriers which obstruct the free flow of Nangka River”.

Ka Noli’s community, EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace share this victory. Together, our vigilance was able to prevent a disaster in the making, not only in terms of clearing the flood that was starting to dam the water but also by stopping what could have been additional pollution load to the Nangka River, the Marikina River and then the Laguna de Bay.