PLASTIC bottles, sando bags, food wrappers and styrofoam.

These are the rubbish that one usually sees in Metro Cebu’s six major rivers: Butuanon in Mandaue City, Guadalupe in Cebu City, Sapangdaku in Toledo City, Guindarohan in Minglanilla, Luknay in Liloan and Cansaga in Consolacion.

According to Environment Management Bureau (EMB) 7 environmental management specialist Karlo Cuizon, Butuanon River is classified as one of the worst rivers in the country by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central office.

Central Visayas is also one of the lowest performing regions in the quality of its rivers, he said.

But this is also in part due to urbanization.

“Take Mindanao, for example. The population is not as high as in the region or in Cebu and they don’t have as many industries, so their rivers are not that polluted,” said Cuizon.

To revitalize the six priority rivers, DENR is implementing the “Adopt-a-River” program, where a company takes charge of the cleanliness and maintenance of a certain part of the river.

Because of this program, Butuanon River, which was once called a dead river, is now about 25 percent revitalized.

In terms of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), three out of the 12 stations in Butuanon River passed the DENR standards for BOD.

The BOD is one of the measures of the pollution in water. It measures the dissolved oxygen needed by microorganisms in the river to remove pollutants, EMB 7 planning officer John Roy Kyamko explained.

Improvements

In 2005, officials believed that the Butuanon River could no longer be revived but over the years, improvements have been noticed.

Aside from the private sector’s initiative, the Mandaue City Government also set aside funds to rehabilitate the heavily silted Butuanon River, which is often blamed for the flooding in the city.

“They say prevention is better than cure and clean-up is a cure. But if there is no prevention, the clean-up is just a waste of resources,” Cuizon said.

He said the DENR has organized many clean-up drives, particularly in the six identified priority rivers, but residents there only look on and point out the uncollected garbage.

“They should be cleaning the garbage with us,” Cuizon said during the regular Kapihan sa PIA (Philippine Information Agency) yesterday.

When asked if an award should be offered so the residents would be encouraged to clean the river, Cuizon said: “Why do they need an award? Let’s go back to bayanihan.”

Tanon strait

Meanwhile, a Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) protected area office was opened recently to safeguard the largest marine protected area in the Philippines.

Any development that touches that seascape, such as the Toledo Reclamation Project, will go through the office.

“Any requests for activities should be addressed to the office,” said DENR 7 spokesperson Eddie Llamedo.

The office is in Barangay Malhiao in Badian town and is manned by a protected seascape superintendent, who has jurisdiction over matters involving the TSPS in the provinces of Cebu, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.

The TSPS covers 521,018 hectares and is one of the country’s major fishing grounds, benefiting some 26,000 fishermen.

According to DENR 7, the strait is the largest marine protected area in the Philippines, which nurtures a highly diverse marine ecosystem with 26 species of mangroves, seven species of seagrass and more than 18,000 hectares of coral reef.