THE rehabilitation of Sicaba River, a tributary that crosses through Manapla town and Cadiz City in Negros Occidental, is now underway.

This, after a collaboration to rehabilitate its physical and environmental state between the Victorias Milling Company (VMC) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Western Visayas has been reached.

A memorandum of agreement signed by Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-Western Visayas Director Ramar Niel Pascua, VMC president Minnie Chua and Chief Finance Officer Kristine Cabuguason, stated that the immediate surface clean-up and installation of approved engineering solutions will be implemented at the pilot site this month.

Chua, in a statement, said the project will form part of the VMC's sustainability program.

"Environment protection has been part of our thrust and we welcome this collaboration with the DENR and the local governments of Manapla and Cadiz City," she added.

Pascua, on the other hand, said the program "emphasizes the significant role of both the public and private sectors and the community in achieving a cleaner, safer and healthier environment."

Manapla Mayor Manuel Escalante III, for his part, said they welcome the initiative as environment protection is high-up on his governance agenda as well.

"This is one program which I hope the residents will embrace and our business partners will fully support," the mayor added.

Also under the collaboration, a comprehensive program to reduce pollution at the Sicaba River and its minor tributaries will be implemented at a specific segment, which was identified as the pilot site by all parties.

There is an open agreement as well to possibly extend the site or replicate programs in other portions of the river in the future.

Some of the river rehabilitation measures identified in the program include regular clean up of the river, phyto-remediation programs through constructed wetlands, planting of bamboo and other species along river banks, rip-rapping or coco-matting and construction and greening of linear parks.

The DENR will take charge of monitoring industrial and commercial establishments that run along the Sicaba River.

The agency will assist in establishing the Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) at the concerned barangays, strictly implement and act against violators of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Clean Water Act, and assist in community social preparation and other trainings for leaders and stakeholder groups in the area.

The VMC, meanwhile, will take charge of undertaking regular water quality monitoring of the river and its tributaries, assist the DENR in trainings and program implementations, and help in community mobilization to support the project.

Chua said Manapla and Cadiz are part of our constituency and this program will help foster better relations among the company's stakeholders.

In fact, they have solicited the help of environmental experts that will focus on the rehabilitation part and have appointed key personnel to directly be in-charge of immediately implementing the program, she added.