Pasig River Pollution
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Background : Philippines

Pasig River Pollution

The Pasig river is one of the major rivers in the Philippines and, together with Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay, form the most important natural water system in Metro Manila. The river is 27 kilometers long and passes through the urban areas of the metropolis from its upstream portion west of Laguna de Bay, moving downstream to east of Manila Bay. It traverses four cities (Manila, Mandaluyong, Makati and Pasig) and two municipalities of Rizal (Taguig and Taytay). It is relatively straight in the upstream portion from Laguna de Bay but follows a winding course downstream through the city of Manila, where the most prominent bend is visible at Punta, Sta. Ana. Just below the Ayala Bridge lies the Isla de Convalescencia, the only island found in the river.

Upstream from Laguna de Bay, the river flows through the Napindan Channel, joins the Marikina River at the boundary of Pasig and Taguig, links farther downstream with San Juan River in Mandaluyong, and finally flows out to Manila Bay. In addition to these tributaries, about 19 creeks or esteros directly discharge into the river. To the north the largest of these esteros are the Esteros De Vitas, which drains directly into Manila Bay and the Estero de Binondo, which passes through the busy commercial district of Binondo. To its south are several esteros in the Manila area such as Estero Provisor, Estero de Tanque, Estero de Paco which links with Estero de Tripa de Galina in Makati, Estero de Concordia, Estero de Pandacan and at least three other unidentified creeks.

The entire Pasig River Basin is divided into six sub-basins (PRRP, 1991). These are the a) Napindan-Taguig River Bsin, b) Marikina river Basin, c) upstream and d) downstream portions of the Pasig River, e) San Juan River Basin and f) Laguna de Bay.  Because of the interrelatedness of these ecosystems, the degradation of any of these basins would severely affect the health of Pasig River and other contiguous basins.

The influx of population brought about by industrialization and urbanization of Metro Manila resulted in the transformation of Pasig River into a sewage and industrial effluents depot.  Pasig River is shimmering with oil slicks, has unpleasant odor,d ark colored water, hyacinth blooms, and floating garbage and feces.  The river is also known to have high organic loads and contaminate with heavy metals, pesticides, nitrates, and phosphates (NPCC, 1981 & 1985; RRS, 1991 & 1998).  The presence of these materials has degraded the water quality of Pasig River consequently upsetting its ecological balance.  Souces of these undesirable materials are domestic liquid wastes, industrial wastes, agricultural activities in parts of Marikina and Taguig, solid wastes, and oil discharges from oil depots and watercrafts.  Understanding the sources, interactions and effects of these undesirable materials on water quality of Pasig River is the key for controlling the inputs of said materials to the river. (Marietta Labra-Espiña-The Pasig river caring for a dying ecosystem 2001)

The post-World War II period saw the uncontrolled industrialization of Manila and its suburbs.  In 1950, Congress enacted the Civil Code of the Philippines, which contained provisions on land use and pollution.  However, this law was largely ineffectual.  This prompted Congress to enact Republic Act No. 3931, which created the NAtioanl Water and Air Pollution Commission (NWAP) as the primary agency responsible for enforcing reasonable standards of air and water quality.  This later became the National Pollution control Commission (NPCC) under the Presidential Decree (PD) No. 984, which gave it more regulatory powers.

The pioneering law specifically designed to rehabilitate the Pasig River came in 1973 when two PDs were issued in succession.  The frist, PD No. 274, pertained to the “preservation, beautification, improvement anf gainful utilization of the PAsig River, providing for the regulation and control of pollution of the river and its banks in order to enhance its development, thereby maximizing its utilization for socio-economic purposes.

The second law, PD No. 281, created the Pasig River Development Council (PRDC), whose job to oversee the implementation of the Pasig River Development (PRDP).  It was concerned mainly with the relocation of informal families and dredging of silted portions of the river, relocation of two large sewers in Manila Bay and construction of concrete railings along the banks of the river.  It was abolished on July 22, 1987 by Executive Order No. 124-A.

To pursue efficient and effective approaches to promote industry compliance and encourage pollution reduction thru public pressure the Industrial Ecowatch is hereby adapted by the DENR as part of the compliance monitoring system.  Ecowatch rates industries not to pollute.

To encourage industry/business sector to engage in environmental improvement activities and advance self-monitoring and mandatory compliance with environmental standards, DENR Administrative Order No. 2003-14 “creating the Environmental Partnership Program” to support industry self regulation towards improve environmental performance was launched in 1993.

Related Presentation:Pasig River Rehabilitation Programme

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