THE Pasig River was considered biologically dead until it got a new lease on life when rehabilitation efforts were started several years ago by the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC). Last October 2018, the project won the first Asia River Prize Awards, an international competition which recognizes the successful efforts to revitalize waterways. Officials from the PRRC received the recognition during the 21st International River symposium held in Sydney, Australia.

Sadly one year after receiving the award, President Rodrigo Duterte abolished the PRRC through Executive Order (EO) 93. The EO formally orders the “disestablishment of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.” Main reason cited was to “to consolidate ongoing rehabilitation efforts in all river systems and tributaries within the Manila Bay Region and streamline rehabilitation functions by transferring them to agencies with relevant core mandates.”

The PRRC was created in January 1999 by virtue of Executive Order No. 54 of President Estrada, to ensure that the Pasig River is rehabilitated to its historically pristine condition conducive for the propagation of fishes and other aquatic resources, transport, recreation and tourism. It is composed of representatives from various government, non-government and private agencies organized into Technical Working Committees in order to fully address the different sectoral concerns of rehabilitating the Pasig River. Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez was the commission’s chairperson from 2010 to 2016.

The abolition of PRRC doesn’t mean the work of rehabilitating Pasig River is over. Under EO 93, PRRC’s functions, including “all necessary and incidental powers,” will be transferred to the Manila Bay Task Force, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The Manila Bay Task Force is tasked to “update and take the lead” in the overall implementation of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Master Plan. The DENR is mandated to ensure the enforcement of easements provided for in the Civil Code and other relevant laws, especially in estuaries and waterways that drain into the Pasig River. The DHSUD is designated to lead relocation of informal settlers and other unauthorized occupants along the banks of the Pasig River.

The MMDA and the DPWH, consistent with their respective mandates, are directed to ensure the dismantling and removal of all structures, constructions, and other encroachments established or built along Pasig River. The two agencies are also ordered to undertake civil works, “as may be necessary,” such as dredging and cleaning of the Pasig River and all the inland channels, estuaries, and waterways that drain into it.

The transfer of PRRC’s functions to the Manila Bay Task Force is a logical move considering that the Pasig River is a major tributary to Manila Bay.