MELANDREW T. VELASCO: Restoring Pasig River the SMC way

First it was the Tullahan River.
This year, San Miguel Corporation (SMC), one of the country’s most diversified companies, is
poised to accomplish another feat: the rehabilitation of the historic Pasig River.
Approximately 27 kilometers long, Pasig River connects Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay. The
main Pasig River passes through the cities of Taguig, Pasig, Makati, Mandaluyong and Manila,
and the municipality of Taytay in Rizal.
The river system has four major tributaries—Marikina, Pateros-Taguig, Napindan and San
Juan—and 43 minor tributaries such as creeks and esteros mostly located in Manila.
Pasig River played an important role in the development of the Manila and its neighboring cities
and town. It was famous for its pristine waters. It was not only a source of water, livelihood nor a
transport route; it was also a place for recreation.
I came across a speech by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. delivered before the
Philippine Jaycees in 1970 where he reminisced about Pasig River. “I remember when I was
young, I used to be a member of an outboard motorboat racers group, and we used to race down
the Pasig River. I turned turtle right in front of Malacanang, or rather, just behind Malacanang.
But the water was so clean that it was a pleasant swim to the river bank,” the late president said.
That was the Pasig River before the onset of rapid urbanization and settlements of informal
settlers along its riverbanks. Aside from pollutants from factories and households that end up in
the river, the proliferation of water hyacinth and other seasonal phenomena such as algal bloom,
and salt water intrusion have contributed to the water quality in the river.
Over the years, several attempts have been made with the hope of rehabilitating and reviving the
river to improve its water quality and flood water carrying capacity, and restore its
environmental integrity.
The recent pronouncement by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) President and CEO Ramon S.
Ang (RSA) that SMC expects its P2-billion Pasig Clean-up project to surpass the one million metric
tons threshold in silt and solid wasted extracted from the river this month is good news to all of
us. According to SMC, the dredging teams will focus efforts on both ends of the river where
water flow restriction is usual.
SMC’s clean up teams have removed a total of 927,198 metric tons of silt and wasted from the
Pasig River to date. Monthly, SMC targets to extract more than 70,000 tons.
Being an archipelago, the country is highly vulnerable to water-related hazards. Manila and its
neighboring cities and towns along bodies of water are prone to flooding especially during the
rainy season and onslaught of typhoons. The rehabilitation of the Pasig River will mitigate the
flooding in these areas as its flood-carrying capacity has vastly improved. The dredging and de-
silting of the river resulted increased the depths to five-six meters from just two-three meters
when the project started.
“Hopefully, by the time the rainy season sets in later this year, our cities will feel the benefits of
the Pasig River’s larger carrying capacity, along with government’s other flood mitigation and
control programs,” RSA said.
With its increased hydraulic capacity, Pasig River as a transport route will also be vastly
improved. River ferries will be able to provide better intra-city connectivity and help decongest
thoroughfares in the metropolis.
The rehabilitation of the Pasig River is the second initiative of SMC in support of DENR’s
Adopt-A-River Program after the Tullahan River rehabilitation. It also contributes to efforts
being undertaken in compliance with the continuing Supreme Court mandamus to clean up the
Manila Bay. It is the largest such initiative by a single entity in the country which I hope will
inspire other entities from the private sector to emulate.
It will be recalled that the Memorandum of Agreement for the implementation of the P2-
billion Pasig Dredging Project was signed between DENR and SMC on June 9, 2021.
The rehabilitation of the Tullahan River which was completed in 27 months and the ongoing
Pasig River project are just two initiatives of SMC led by RSA that demonstrate the entity’s love
for the country.
Like SMC and RSA, we too can show our love for our country by becoming good stewards of
the country’s resources.