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MANILA, Philippines - Public and private partnership in reviving the country’s 20 river systems is “badly needed,” and reversing the “biologically dead” status of 50 of the country’s over 400 rivers is “not impossible to achieve,” Philex Mining Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Manuel V. Pangilinan said on Thursday.
At the same time, he lauded local government leaders and the people of Iloilo City at the First Philippine International River Summit, for leading the way in the clean up and rehabilitation of the Iloilo River, an initiative he said continues to inspire him.
Pangilinan’s speech, delivered by Philex Mining Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs Atty. Michael T. Toledo, noted the exemplary cooperation between the local government of Iloilo led by Mayor Jed Mabilog and legislators such as Senator Franklin Drilon and Cabinet members led by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Mon Paje, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, for holding the “worthwhile initiative that deserves the attention and support of the entire country and the international community.”
While concerned over the “sorry state” of many rivers in the country, MVP said he derives inspiration from the success of Iloilo’s own experience, expressing strong optimism that the mission to revive the 421 rivers, including 20 large river systems and most especially the 50 rivers that were considered "biologically dead" is not too impossible to achieve.
Our country is blessed with much rainfall and rich freshwater resources, he said. “Out of the average annual rainfall of 2,400 mm, about 1,000 mm to 2,000 mm flow into the country's 421 rivers and 16 major lakes. So much water is at our disposal that we have taken it for granted to the point of even failing to protect it,” he said.
The Philex chairman praised Iloilo City’s systematic and corroborative programs and approaches in clearing waterways of man-made obstructions and for initiating “programs to transfer communities along riverbanks to other sites in an orderly and humane manner”.
He also cited the city government’s strong efforts to stop the dumping of pollutants into the rivers.
Pangilinan is chairman of TV5, where InterAksyon.com is the online news portal.
Pangilinan also chairs the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF), initially created to coordinate with government in the reconstruction of areas affected by Typhoon Ondoy. Through the initiative of the PDRF, World Bank funded a technical assistance program to help government and the private sector integrate existing flood-control plans and develop a single master plan that takes off from the painful lessons of Ondoy.
Pangilinan said PDRF, as part of the components of the said masterplan, has reforested 500 hectares of the Marikina Watershed in the past year and a half in collaboration with private companies, NGOs, the DENR, and local governments and communities. PDRF also assisted people living in the watersheds to work their way out of poverty.
He also bared initiatives by Smart Communications and Sun Cellular, both part of the PLDT Group, to support a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) dubbed PROJECT NOAH, aimed at building flood monitoring and warning systems in 18 of the country's major river basins including Iloilo.
The PLDT chief reiterated the telco’s commitment, allowing DOST to install automatic rain gauges (ARGs) in 600 cell sites of Smart and Sun all over the country. Smart and Sun will also handle the transmission of the rainfall data to the central database of DOST. This will enable DOST to have accurate real-time rainfall measurements in all these river basins.
Under Project NOAH, DOST will also map out the 18 target river basins using the Light Detection and Ranging or LIDAR system.
LIDAR is an optical remote sensing technology that can generate very accurate topographical maps of river basins. When combined with rainfall data, it will eventually allow DOST to create computer-generated flood forecasting models to predict the amount and depth of flood for a given area, enhancing disaster preparedness for any specific area of the country.
With strong resolve, with advanced technology, with the organization to develop and carry out the masterplan and with the experience of Iloilo City in successfully doing a clean-up and rehabilitation of its river system, Pangilinan expressed optimism that efforts to save the rest of the country’s rivers will also succeed.
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