Pasig, other Philippine rivers among biggest contributors to ocean plastic pollution

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Pasig, other Philippine rivers among biggest contributors to ocean plastic pollution
Undated file photos shows Pasig River.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines was the largest contributing country to the plastic waste that reaches the ocean, with the Pasig River ranked as the most polluting river in the world, a study by a Dutch nonprofit showed.

According to a study of The Ocean Cleanup published in Sciences Advances last April, the Philippines is home to 28% of the rivers responsible for ocean plastic pollution.

The Philippines had 466 rivers out of the 1,656 rivers that accounted for nearly 80% of plastic inputs to the ocean.  

The 27-kilometer Pasig River, which flows through the capital region, was identified as the most polluted by plastics.

In 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte abolished the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, which was tasked to ensure the rehabilitation of Pasig River to its “historically pristine condition conducive to transport, recreation, and tourism.”

Previous studies found the Yangtze River in China—the third longest in the world—as the highest plastic emitting river but it only ranked 64th in the recent study.

Other rivers in the Philippines that dumped the most amount trash and plastic into the ocean were the following:

  • Tullahan
  • Meycauayan
  • Pampanga
  • Libmanan
  • Rio de Grande de Mindanao
  • Agno
  • Agusan
  • Parañaque
  • Iloilo
  • Imus
  • Zapote
  • Cagayan de Oro
  • Davao
  • Malaking Tubig
  • Tambo, Pasay
  • Jalaur
  • Cagayan
  • Hamulauon

Smaller rivers

Earlier studies ranked the largest rivers in the world as the top contributors to marine plastic pollution.

But The Ocean Clean study identified small and medium-sized rivers that flow through coastal cities in emerging economies as the most polluting.

“Coastal cities associated with urban drainage and paves surfaces presented the highest emission probabilities, particularly in regions with high precipitation rates,” the study read.

View the map here

Plastic pollution

The Philippines, an archipelagic nation, was frequently listed among the top contributors to marine plastic pollution along with China, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Malacañang called the ranking of Pasig River a “badge of dishonor” that could prompt “radical” actions from the government to rehabilitate Pasig River.   

The Climate Change Commission said the findings of the study raised “extreme concern” on the issue of mismanaged plastic waste in the country.

“[The study] supports the call of the commission for urgent efforts to solve the plastic crisis by implementing measures to regulate and in turn, halt the production of unnecessary plastics-made straws and stirrers, spoon and fork, and plastic labo, among others,” CCC said in a statement Wednesday.

The House of Representatives recently approved on second reading a bill which seeks to regulate the production, importation, sale, use and disposal of single-use plastic products. At the Senate, counterpart measures are still pending at the committee level.

In February, after 20 years, the National Solid Waste Management Commission included plastic soft drink straws and coffee stirrers in the list of non-environmentally acceptable products.

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