TWO giant polluted rivers in Metro Cebu--Butuanon River and Guadalupe River--may soon get a makeover.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama wants the Guadalupe River to be the pilot area to be restored in a collaboration project of the City Government and Sen. Franklin Drilon.

Mandaue City Legal Officer Giovanni Tianero said the City hopes to bid out a project rehabilitating a one-kilometer stretch of Butuanon River before the election ban on infrastructure projects takes effect.

The City allocated P13.5 million for the project, which includes creating a walkway along the river.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has cited Butuanon River as one of the most polluted rivers in the country.

Tianero, chair of the Butuanon River Watershed Management Board, said they are still working out the details of the project, and that they hope to start implementing it next year.

The walkway will stretch from the Butuanon Bridge to the Cambogao Bridge.

Tianero said they hope private establishments near the river would help rehabilitate the river.

Guadalupe river

For Cebu City, Guadalupe River is an important landmark, as it divides the north and south districts.

“Guadalupe has already been considered. That’s why we all agreed that it will be the focus area,” said Mayor Rama.

Rama said informal settlers who are occupying the three-meter easement of the river will have to be relocated to pave the way for the restoration and rehabilitation efforts.

Rama said residents have long been aware of the need for them to vacate the place, which is considered a danger zone.

Last Tuesday, Rama together with Project Reduction of Danger Zones (Redz) chief and Tinago Barangay Captain Joel Garganera and former Redz head Jose Daluz III, met with Drilon in Manila to discuss the plan to rehabilitate the city’s rivers.

Iloilo model

Drilon helped Iloilo City in cleaning its rivers and lobbied funds for the projects including the construction of a resettlement area for 1,000 families living along the riverbank.

Drilon already committed to help the City after the meeting.

With the development, Rama said, he will also discuss with Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) who earlier committed to help the City improve and restore the Guadalupe River.

MPTC is the proponent of the third bridge project that will connect Cebu City and Mactan Island.

The two parties earlier agreed to rehabilitate the whole stretch of the river as part of the preparation for the construction of the third bridge.

“They (MPTC) already have concept papers for the development we will just to sit down with the group to discuss it a more intellectual manner that will bring about a well-balanced template for the project,” Rama said.

The two concepts, Rama said, could be integrated into one with Drilon being on top of it.

Rama did not disclose any details on the collaboration project with Drilon because steps have to be complied first before the implementation could take a full swing.

Cadastral survey

As a start, Drilon reportedly asked the City to conduct a cadastral survey to determine the original width of the river and identify the three-meter easement.

The City was also asked to determine how many structures are built within the riverbank.

“If it can happen in Iloilo, there’s no reason it cannot happen in Cebu,” Rama said.

Fully restoring the Butuanon River, Tianero said, will take time.

“It is a continuing effort by the City and other concerned agencies to revitalize and rehabilitate the river. It’s an ongoing process. We cannot expect change overnight,” he said yesterday in a press conference organized by the Mandaue City Public Information Office.

The 23-kilometer waterway stretches from the mountains of Metro Cebu, with almost half of it crossing Mandaue City.

City Planning Officer Florentino Nimor said part of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan being crafted by the City is imposing a 50-meter no-build zone along the river.

“This is one of the long-term solutions we are looking at. It will not mean outright demolitions. We will not allow any more structures to be built within 50 meters from the river,” he said.

Help in clearing

Nimor also said the City may get help from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) in clearing and monitoring the area as the latter plans to put up posts along the river for its transmission lines.

Another long-term measure, he said, is the creation of the “Green Loop”, an urban greening project being proposed under the Mega Cebu movement of the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board.

The Butuanon River will be part of the loop of green pedestrian and bicycle lanes.