A United Nations (UN)-backed technology that uses certain species of fungi to dissolve plastic may hold the key to revive polluted waterways including the rehabilitation of the Pasig River which is vital to both commerce and a healthy environment for Metro Manila.
The new scientific find and the political will of the current administration are key to the Duterte administration’s plan for the sustainable rehabilitation of Pasig River.
Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno said if the will is strong enough to show that this is the best way to deal with the problem “there will be pressure for the next administration to continue it.”
The Daily Tribune — which was recognized by the UN as a partner and founding member of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Media Compact which encompassed more than 100 media and entertainment outlets — had also expressed its full support to bringing Pasig river back to life through determined leadership.
If feasible, it will be greatly beneficial to the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), which was created in January of 1999 through Executive Order 54. The PRRC is a commission mandated to strengthen the government’s program to rehabilitate the river for transportation, recreation and tourism purposes.
The environmental commission gained recognition last month in an international competition which recognizes the successful efforts to revitalize waterways, as the 27-kilometer Pasig River beat China’s Yangtze River in the first Asia RiverPrize Awards in Australia.
The International River Foundation (IRF) had noted how the government successfully revived the Pasig River — declared biologically dead in the 1990s due to persistent pollution. The river’s dismal state was supposedly caused by population growth and industrial development along its riverbanks.
It lauded PRRC for its successful relocation of thousands of families living along the riverbanks to decent homes, adding that hundreds of private structures encroaching the river was dismantled and added that it was able to divert almost 22,000 kilograms of solid waste from 1999 to 2017.
In line with the UN promotion of the SDG that aims to alleviate poverty and promote awareness in environmental and climate change issues, the UN-backed study revealed that it is possible to solve plastic pollution.
If the study proves to be feasible, it will advance its applications to environmental clean-up of rivers, lakes and oceans and it could also translate into improved food security, environmental sustainability and increased production revenues.
The Philippines stands as a major beneficiary from the study if proven effective, as it already spearheaded the clean-up of Pasig River, which is the country’s largest river system.
Scientists at London’s Kew Botanical Gardens stated recently in the first-ever State of the World’s Fungi report that these organisms have the potential to break down waste plastic which is an important advance in a world where momentum is building to reverse the toxic tide of plastic that is killing marine life and polluting the ocean.
It noted that at least eight metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s waterways — like lakes, rivers and seas — and it decomposes into tiny microplastics that almost always make their way into the world’s food chain.
“Other fungi and microorganisms are also being explored for their potential to degenerate different types of plastic,” said Senior Kew Gardens Scientist Ilia Leitch. “By understanding how the fungi break down these bonds and what the optimal conditions are, you can then increase the speed at which they do it.”
The authors of the study — a team of some 100 scientists from 18 countries — argue that further research into these organisms could provide answers to some of humanity’s greatest challenges.
The PRRC had extended its gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte, whose leadership has united both the public and private sectors into a shared mission of protecting the Pasig River and improving lives of the communities around it with a strong political will.
To recall, Duterte had also put the environment into his administration’s agenda, having signed the Paris Agreement detailing commitments to deal with climate change in March of 2017.
The Pasig River will automatically qualify for Stage Two of the Thiess International RiverPrize in 2019.
The government has a program in which an inter-agency body will ask the six local government units (LGU) where Pasig River traverses, namely Quezon City, Marikina, Manila, Mandaluyong, Pasig and Taguig, to do their share in cleaning up the river and ensuring that cause for its pollution stops.
Illegal settlers have to go
Diokno said local government officials need to enforce discipline among their constituents and make sure easements along river banks are observed.
“If there is a need to demolish the illegal settlers then this must be done but LGU officials need to ensure the affected families’ relocation,” he stressed. “It’s really an all government effort…It will be indicated in the EO,” he said.
Also part of the plan is to increase the number of stations of the Pasig River Ferry System’s from 12 to 27, with 24 servicing boats by the end of 2020. It is intended to cater to 76,000 commuters daily or 19,836,000 a year, excluding special trips, express routes and weekend schedules.
“We feel that (by) embracing this ferry service, it will motivate people to clean up the Pasig River. A big part of this will be with the help of LGU officials,” he said.
At least eight metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s waterways.
Diokno said the plan is to ensure that the ferry system will have improved services before Christmas season this year since this is when land traffic in the metropolis becomes haywire.
“Our plan it to have a comfortable, predictable and reliable ferry system… Right now it’s spotty. You don’t know whether you’ll come on schedule so we want it to be regular, every 15 minutes,” he added.
(Daily Tribune is running a series of articles as part of its commitment as partner of the United Nations in the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals for Global Communication that was recently formalized through the SDG Media Compact. The compact, which binds more than 100 media and entertainment outlets worldwide, recognized the Daily Tribune as one of its founding members, the only media organization in the Philippines to gain such an honor.
The newspaper, named as the Most Innovative Broadsheet for 2018 in the 44th Philippines Business Expo, will employ its different platforms that include its multimedia and social media services — Concept News Central and tribune.net.ph — in propagating news stories and other relevant information in the global quest to meet Agenda 2030 which is the deadline to meeting SDG).