World Water Day: SMC clears 5.5M MT of waste via river rehab

The Philippine Star
World Water Day: SMC clears 5.5M MT of waste via river rehab
SMC removes 5.5 million metric tons of silt and solid waste from different rivers and waterways in the country.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — On World Water Day, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) logged its highest water savings yet in five years, under its flagship water sustainability program, “Water for All.”

At the same time, it also reported significant progress in its ongoing massive effort to clean up major river systems in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.

SMC president and CEO Ramon S. Ang said that the company’s group-wide “Water for All” program saved 7.5 billion liters of scarce water in 2023.

This brings SMC’s total water savings throughout the program’s seven-year run to 41.3 billion liters — equivalent to the monthly consumption of 1.3 million households.

Ang also reported on the progress of another major water initiative.

As of March 21, its river rehabilitation project had removed a total of 5.5 million metric tons of silt and solid wastes from 85 kilometers of waterways. These include the Tullahan River, Pasig River, San Juan River and Bulacan rivers, as well as rivers in Laguna and Navotas.

“Water issues have long been a major priority for us. Our latest internal Group water savings report, together with our ongoing river cleanup initiatives, are a strong affirmation of San Miguel’s commitment when it comes to the protection, preservation, and enhancement of our water resources,” Ang said.

The company’s internal water savings, according to Ang, comes mostly from increased utilization of non-scarce water sources such as seawater, recycled water and rainwater.

“In the past couple of years, our businesses have really stepped up when it comes to investing in water-saving measures. From fixing leaks, installing new meters, replacing old pipes; to installing rainwater harvesting facilities, utilizing more efficient water recycling and reuse systems, to investments in advanced technologies such as desalination. Every drop counts, so every little effort of our employees counts,” Ang added.

SMC fuel and oils subsidiary Petron Corp. continued to account for the bulk of scarce water savings, through its use of a water desalination facility.

Petron’s total water savings for 2023 reached 3.5 billion liters, bringing its seven-year total to 20.8 billion liters. San Miguel Global Power came in at second, with 1.3 billion liters of scarce water saved for the year, bringing its total to 6.1 billion liters. At third was Spirits unit Ginebra San Miguel Inc., which logged nearly 1.2 billion liters of water saved, for a total of 5.9 billion liters since 2017.

Other subsidiaries including San Miguel Foods, San Miguel Brewery Inc., San Miguel Yamamura Packaging Corp., SMC Infrastructure, Northern Cement Corp. and San Miguel Properties also contributed to total water savings.

Since its launch in 2017, SMC’s Water for All program has expanded to include newer facilities built in recent years. To date, it monitors the water use of 96 SMC facilities, offices and installations nationwide.

The year “Water for All” was launched, SMC also announced the discontinuation of its plastic bottled water business.

At the time, Ang noted that while its plastic bottled water business was providing good returns, its discontinuation was part of SMC’s push for greater sustainability, particularly through minimizing plastic waste that end up in bodies of water.

Three years later, in 2020, SMC began its massive river cleanup program, which started with its P1-billion initiative to clean up the Tullahan River. The initiative led to the removal of some 1.1 million tons of waste from an 11-kilometer stretch of that river.

SMC then took on the more difficult challenge of cleaning up the Pasig River starting in 2021, for which it spent another P2 billion.

Last year, the company completed its cleanup of the Pasig River where it removed nearly 1.2 million metric tons of silt and waste.

The project has since moved to Bulacan province, where many low-lying towns are perennially flooded during the rainy season, due in large part to clogged rivers that prevent the flow of floodwaters out to the Manila Bay.

SMC’s Bulacan river cleanup efforts have cleared 2.6 million tons of silt and wastes from the Marilao River, Guiguinto River and Pamarawan River.

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