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Earth to estero

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Picture this: Microscopic buildings made of plastic all the familiar brands we consume and discard, rinse and repeat – standing vertically atop the sea foam, swishing along the world’s ocean gyres.

Now, a little bit closer: Petite organisms squeezing their way into Styrofoam restaurants, munching on plastic brunches, whiling time away on chemical parks.

The mess that we have made has grown so extensive, it might as well have created its own ecosystem.

To help bring back the esteros (estuaries) to their earthly state, a collaboration between the estero communities, donor-partners, local government units, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other government agencies gave birth to the Adopt-an-Estero/Water Body program.

The DENR Environmental Management Bureau says one of the program’s objectives is to “clean the esteros of wastes, debris and silt starting 2010 until all have been cleaned up.”

THE Manila Zoo administration quickly cleaned its canal and waterways.

This primarily engages communities to maintain their waterways and “enlist their active participation in the actual clean-up, and in implementing and preparing plans to sustain a clean estero in the future years.”

On the other hand, the DENR defined donors or partners as a “business establishment, an industry association, a non-government organization or any other group that volunteers to be a major actor in cleaning the esteros.”

Some of DENR’s big-ticket partners for the program have included SM Prime Holdings and Petron, and lately San Miguel Corp.

Some of DENR’s big-ticket partners for the program have included SM Prime Holdings and Petron, and lately San Miguel Corp.

In 2011, Petron Corp. pledged P200 million to aid the rehabilitation of the Marikina River for five years.

This effort included information and education campaigns, as well as engagements with local stakeholders to ensure the campaign’s sustainability.

SM Prime likewise paired with the agency for a five-year rehabilitation program for the 10-kilometer stretch of the San Juan River in 2012.

And just this March, SMC signed a memorandum of agreement to rehabilitate the Tullahan-Tinajeros River System, funding P1 billion for the equipment, which will be used for the clean-up of the river, starting with the stretch at the La Mesa Dam end in Quezon City.

The Tullahan River traverses the cities of Malabon, Caloocan, Valenzuela and Quezon City, before emptying into glorious Manila Bay, which has since received renewed attention when thousands flocked here for a massive clean-up drive – and photo ops, too.

Two years after the establishment in 2010 of the Adopt-an-Estero program, the DENR reported more than 300 partners who have lent a hand, time and effort to make the congested esteros great again.

The effort is far from completion, and once the walls between the key players and the community have been broken down, that’s when change will be most evident.

The effort is far from completion, and once the walls between the key players and the community have been broken down, that’s when change will be most evident.

Maynilad maintenace crew sip the mud at the Manila Yatch Club start of the Manila bay Clean Up

In its 2014 annual accomplishment report, the DENR said among the challenges it encountered in the implementation of the campaign was the low participation of estero communities, as well as poor solid waste management.

A program like this paves the way for corporations and communities to contribute in the only way they can – but this does not happen overnight. The rehabilitation of Manila Bay presents many answers, as well as poses many questions.

What do we need then? Perhaps, we must keep an open mind and give up personal agendas.
It is important to move toward one direction as we heed the call of the environment for help, lest we find ourselves in more calamitous situations in the future.

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