For the past month, Greenpeace has been holding a Water Patrol Caravan around Marikina City to provide a venue for learning and discussion about water protection and on a community’s right-to-know about the substances that may be polluting their freshwater sources.

The Marikina River, a tributary of the Pasig River and eventually Manila Bay, is in the heart of Metropolitan Manila and runs through seven cities, where its banks play host to various industrial facilities, most of which dispose their industrial effluents directly into the river or through surrounding grounds that eventually seep into this body of water.

The river also has multiple choke points due to domestic and industrial solid wastes, poor urban planning, and climate change impacts.  Its now-murky and polluted waters threaten lives and livelihood whenever strong rainfall visits the Metro.  One particularly deadly event was its river-swell during typhoon Ondoy in 2009.

Greenpeace is working with Marikina City to call on the leaders and citizens of the Alliance of Seven Cities [[1]] to work together on solutions for protecting and rehabilitating the Marikina River.  A first step identified has been for a program to make communities better informed about the importance of Marikina River and their right to know about impacts on its health, prior to setting up a pilot Pollution Release and Transfer Registry (PRTR).

A PRTR would provide citizens with a central database to find out about the state of health of a freshwater body. Industries submit information on their effluents into the PRTR, which will help them improve their business practices and gain competitive edge through establishment of standards for Clean Production and Zero Discharge.

The Water Patrol Caravan 2011 has been going around Marikina City the last few weeks to spread the message on water protection and to rally community members into progressively more active roles.

Culminating today at The Roof Deck in Marikina Riverbanks, the Caravan ends with creative presentations from community members, including an original stageplay and a photo exhibit revolving around themes on water protection and historical as well as recent images of the Marikina River and the people whose lives revolve around it.  As a finale, community members who have stepped up into roles as new members of the Marikina Water Patrol will be having their oath-taking.

  • The activities during the Water Patrol Caravan included the following:

    Greenpeace volunteers sought out senior members within the community to gather stories about the Marikina River of old as a pre-caravan activity. Unfortunately, a lot of the old photos they had were recently washed away by flood waters during Typhoon Ondoy.
    Sept. 10: First stop of the Caravan at the Marikina Youth Camp for a forum on water and a photography workshop. The workshop had members of the Marikina Digital Photography Club as the resource persons.

  • Oct. 1: Second stop of the Water Patrol Caravan at the Malanday National High School, where more than 70 high-school level students participated in the forum and theatre workshop. In the afternoon, some barangay officials and faculty from the Malanday National High School and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina participated in a separate forum on water.

  • Oct. 8: Third stop of the Water Patrol Caravan at Barangay Kalumpang. A Theater Workshop was facilitated by members of the local theatre group, Teatro Marikeño, while educational entertainment was provided by ventriloquist Ony Carcamo and his puppets, Ken, Nonoy and Sampaguita.

  • Oct. 15: The culmination event features the outputs of the workshops, in the form of plays and photos revolving around three themes: (1) Water as a vital resource for all; (2) Standing up for the right to clean water; (3) Living with Water Pollution; and (4) Marikina River as our lolos and lolas knew it.  Oath-taking of new water patrol members.

“We hope that with the new Water Patrol members, there will be more watchful eyes that will help raise awareness on pollution issues, and who will insist on their right to know about the chemicals that might find their way into the Marikina River and their water sources, and ultimately result in a drastic reduction of pollution in the river,” said Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

[1] The Alliance of Seven consists of the following cities and municipalities: Marikina City, Pasig City, Antipolo City, Quezon City, Cainta, San Mateo and Rodriguez in Rizal.