LGUs, community groups join Greenpeace call for phase-out of toxics in Marikina River

Feature story - March 20, 2011
Representatives from the local government units (LGUs) of Marikina and Quezon City, together with students, barangay officials and community groups from San Mateo, Rizal, and other areas around the Marikina River shoreline today joined the Greenpeace Water Patrol in bearing witness to the state of the Marikina River and calling for the elimination of toxic discharges into the Philippines’ fresh water bodies.

The call was made today during advanced activities celebrating World Water Day (WWD), which falls on Tuesday, March 22.  A small flotilla was launched from the Riverbanks Ferry Station for the “bearing witness” activity to mark this year’s WWD, which revolves around the theme “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge.”  

“Greenpeace has decided to come out to Marikina River to bear witness to a river that has borne the challenge of industrialization and urbanization,” said Francis Joseph Dela Cruz, toxics campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.  “On World Water Day, we are also launching partnerships to advocate for the institutionalization of the community-right-to-know about the composition of industrial effluents into bodies of water,” he added.  The advocacy calls for the creation of local ordinances that would establish Pollution Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) in relevant LGUs that would then be able to monitor more efficiently the chemical make-up of emissions coming from industrial establishments into bodies of water. [1]

“Marikina River can easily be a poster child for water stress due to pollution from industrialization and urbanization, said Marikina City Mayor Del R. De Guzman.  “The seven towns and cities that share the river must take responsibility for keeping this river free of hazardous chemicals from industry and waste from households.  Moreover, as the Marikina River is a tributary of the Laguna de Bay, this matter becomes more urgent due to the role of the lake as a source of food and water,” the mayor added.



For her part, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte said that “the key to water security is the empowerment of communities and local government units who are in the frontlines of protecting our river systems from pollution.  Quezon City has initiated programs to clean-up our waterways and rivers, but really we need to look at the sources of pollution as well.”

Greenpeace volunteers, students, local officials and representatives from community groups took samples from the river to illustrate the state of the waters of Marikina River for participants to reflect on the issue.  The water samples were labelled with the most intriguing questions that students and citizens who rely on this lifeline: “What’s in the water?” “Who is responsible?” “Who will clean?” “Who will protect?” “Is this the present? Is this our future?”

“We need to be very mindful of domestic wastes, which comprise majority of the garbage that gets dumped into our freshwater bodies.  But there is also an invisible threat in our waters – toxic effluents from industries, which the public hardly knows anything about.  That will change though, once we are able to establish PRTRs that would further empower LGUs and communities in rising to the challenge that urbanization brings to our fresh water sources,” concluded Dela Cruz.

Notes:

  1. The GPSEA PH Toxics Campaign seeks to prevent pollution of our freshwater resources, with Laguna de Bay as focal point. The strategy is to identify polluters and pollutants by institutionalizing the community right to know through Pollution Release and Transfer Registers/Toxics Use and Release Inventories (PRTR/TURI).

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