THE Iloilo City government will launch a vigilant river watch project along the Iloilo River in a move to help preserve the river that divides the city into two parts.

City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas said the Bantay Suba project of the Iloilo City River Development Council (ICRDC) will institutionalize the river watch as a major component of the 15-year Iloilo River Development Master Plan.

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Treñas said the river is host to six major bridges as gateways to and from the city proper and if properly preserve and maintained, could be a major city tourist attraction and income earner for city residents.

The bridges traversing the Iloilo River are the Quirino Bridge going to Lapuz district, Diversion Bridge and Carpenter Bridge going to Mandurriao district, Jalandoni Bridge, Drilon Railway Bridge and Forbes Bridge going to La Paz district.

The project will be launched on January 17, 2010 near the Carpenter Bridge in Molo district along the new Iloilo Boulevard.

It will be attended by city barangay officials, heads of national government agencies, non-government organizations, and volunteers for the river watch project.

The 12-kilometer river stretches from Muelle Loney at city proper to Barangay Mohon in Oton town, south of Iloilo City.

City environment and natural resources officer Noel Hechanova, concurrent ICRDC executive director, said the project stemmed from the calls of various sectors for a vigilant river watch.

Among the issues raised were the poor water quality of the river, presence of solid wastes and other floating debris, heavy siltation, lack or inadequate infra facilities for public access to and from the river that could draw public interest, worn-out buildings and structures from the river mouth up to Quirino Bridge. High incidence of respiratory diseases among residents near the river, presence of informal settlers, and lack of data on the economic valuation of the different industrial, commercial activities and businesses along the Iloilo River.

Hechanova said technical assistance and grant were already provided to 11 out of 19 riverside barangays as beneficiaries of the community-based solid waste management (CBSWM) project of the Iloilo Flood Control Project (IFCP) funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

Included in the IFCP Iloilo River Improvement Project are South and North San Jose, Tap-oc, San Pedro and Taal in Molo district; Tabucan and San Rafael in Mandurriao district; Nabitasan, Luna and Rizal in La Paz district, San Agustin in the city proper; and Barrio Obrero and Mansaya in Lapuz district.

The Bantay Suba project will assist in the strict implementation of all relevant local and national laws, monitor compliance of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Iloilo River Development Master Plan and undertake a regular river clean-up.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary and Bantay Bayan will field more than 100 volunteers to conduct vigilant watch along the riverbank stretch and discourage residents living near riverbanks and commercial establishments from making the river a septic tank of their solid and water wastes.

The volunteers will be assisted by members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Iloilo Chapter aside from assistance from the Iloilo Business Club (IBC), United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), IFCP and Filipino Chinese Chamber. Cooperating government agencies include Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Agriculture, Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy and Philippine National Police.

Hechanova said the project also seeks to augment efforts to clean and dredge the Dungon Creek that empties its water to the Iloilo River.