Pasig River wins 1st Asia RiverPrize award!

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2018 - 12:00am

Last week while in Singapore my son gave me an autographed book of Victor Mallet’s River of Life, River of Death. It is about the Ganges in India. That led us to talk about the Pasig River which is the equivalent of rivers in other countries. Indeed every civilization in the world can be said to have begun on river banks.

The surprise was the story that the Pasig River would compete with the Yangtze River of China in reviving the beauty and usefulness of their two rivers. But the River Pasig against the Yangtze? It seemed impossible to win in such a competition.

The competition was held in Sydney last Sunday and guess what – the seemingly impossible task for Filipinos to clean the Pasig – was done. We did it. We won against the Chinese cleaning the Yangtze.

I was already headed for home when I received an email from Ariel Borlongon, one of the volunteers to clean the Pasig River that said “The Pasig River Won in the 1st Asia RiverPrize award.”

Here is Ariel Borlongan’s email <arielborlongan@yahoo.com>

“The Pasig River, through the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), bagged the Inaugural 2018 Asia RiverPrize given by the International River Foundation during 21st International River Symposium in Sydney on Oct. 16, 2018. The 27-kilometer Pasig River beat the other finalist Yangtze River of China, which was represented by the Asian Development Bank. In announcing the winner during the gala dinner, the IRF said the judges were really impressed with the scale of the problem the Pasig River faced and the scale of the response initiated by the PRRC.

“Critical to the success of the story was bringing the community, around 18,000 people, to decent housing and transforming these communities and their lives into environmentally responsible citizens,” the IRF said before the announcement of the winner.

Pasig River, being the winner of the 2018 Asia RiverPrize, received widespread global recognition, which can build new partnerships, provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge and best practices, and open doors for international support. “One of the five critical criteria in the determination of the winner was leadership, which we attribute to the leadership of our beloved President Rodrigo R. Duterte. It was PRRD’s leadership that united both the public and private sectors into this shared mission of protecting the Pasig River and improving the lives of the communities around it with strong political will,” stated PRRC Executive Director Jose Antonio “Ka Pepeton” Goitia. “This is a global recognition for President Duterte and every Filipino river warrior. Ito na ‘yung bunga ng ating puso para sa Ilog Pasig kaya itutuloy-tuloy lang natin ang ating mga programa.”

IRF, in its website, noted that Pasig River was declared biologically dead in the 1990s due to persistent pollution caused by population growth and industrial development along its riverbanks. However, PRRC and its partners in river restoration and management efforts have effectively brought the Pasig River back to life. PRRC’s efforts including quality projects, programs, activities, and advocacies in easement recovery, riverbank development, waste and water quality management, and public awareness brought the river back to life.

From 1999 to 2017, PRRC resettled 18,719 families living along the riverbanks to decent homes, dismantled 376 encroaching private structures, established 37,471.68 linear meters of environmental preservation areas, developed 17 of its 47 identified tributaries, diverted almost 22 million kilograms of solid waste, and transformed communities into environmentally responsible citizens.

“This has resulted in significant water quality improvement, as well as the revitalization and development of the Pasig River system,” IRF stated in the website.

The Pasig River rehabilitation project has been adjudged as the most noteworthy endeavor in Asia, earning the 1st Asia RiverPrize, the world’s foremost award in river basin management.”

The Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) received the recognition from the International River Foundation judge panel during the International River symposium RiverPrize ceremonies held in Australia.

During the awards presentation, the Asia RiverPrize judges said they were impressed by the scale of the problem and the scale of the response to the problem faced by Pasig River.

The story of Pasig River “that refuses to die and has come back to life” was presented to the River symposium participants before announcing the recognition for the Philippines.”

We have done what seemed impossible which proves that with enough cooperation and determination by the people working with government it can be done.

“Critical to the success of this story is to bring the communities of about 18,000 people to decent houses and transforming these communities and their lives into environmentally responsible citizens is an amazingly outstanding achievement,” said the Asiaprize panel chair of Pasig River’s feat.

Here is the wonderful story of how we did it.

“The Pasig River is a 27-kilometer river which served as the main route for transport, trade and cultural exchange since the pre-colonial and Spanish era in the Philippines. It was declared biologically dead in the 1990s after decades of rapid urbanization and industrialization in Metro Manila.

The PRRC was established in 1999 to lead in the revival of the Pasig River and has since established projects for riverbanks development, solid waste management, water quality improvement and public awareness.

Earlier this year Pasig River was touted as the soon-to-be arts and culture hub of Metro Manila in a public awareness campaign conducted by the PRRC together with the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and various local governments. The creative campaign dubbed “Taga-Alog Ilog Pasig: Balik Tanaw, Balik Sigla!” presented various projects that build on stories surrounding the river and the communities that surround it.

“Last year, the Philippines was the only third world and developing country that made it into the international finals and bravely competed with the US and the United Kingdom. In this year’s Asia RiverPrize, we faced another super power – the red dragon, China. However, with an indomitable spirit, we remain steadfast and optimistic that we will stand triumphant in the end,” Goitia said in a PNA release announcing the Pasig River as finalist for the Asia RiverPrize.

Pasig River will automatically qualify for Stage Two of the Thiess International RiverPrize in 2019. The Pasig River Integrated River Basin Management will receive widespread global recognition which can build new partnerships, provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge and best practices, and open doors for international support.”

Let’s ride the Pasig River ferry.

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