Amidst the pandemic, San Miguel Corporation (SMC)’s P1-B initiative to dredge the Tullahan-Tinajeros river system, has yielded 2,150 truckloads of silt and garbage as of August 25.
The initiative, part of a wide-ranging plan to address flooding in Bulacan and many parts of Central Luzon, was launched in February together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) but only fully commenced in June after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was eased.
“In just over two months, we have extracted close to 20,000 cubic meters of silt and garbage. That is equivalent to 2,150 truckloads of debris. We thank the DENR for its commitment to the initiative and for making this possible,” said SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang.
And said the company has been removing 600 tons of solid waste on a daily basis that go to DENR-approved and designated disposal sites.
“We’re just starting with phase one of the project, covering a 5.25 km. stretch of river system from Navotas to Malabon City. We have a long way to go, but we are fully committed to this long-term project that will benefit so many people and our environment,” he added.
He said other government units that continue to provide invaluable support to the initiative include the Department of Public Works and Highways (PDWH), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the local governments of Malabon and Navotas.
While the project aims to clean Tullahan as part the Manila Bay rehabilitation project, Ang said its larger objective is to form part of a much-larger initiative to solve perennial flooding problem in low-lying provinces, including, but not limited to, Bulacan.
The province is where SMC is set to build the country’s largest and most modern world-class international airport, with groundbreaking set for October this year.
“We committed to the people of Bulacan that we would help solve flooding in their area. Dredging the Tullahan is a major component of our flood mitigation strategies,” Ang said.
Ang explained that the Tullahan River is also a spillway for water coming from Angat and Ipo Dams going to the Manila Bay, hence the need to maintain its depth. For the dredging SMC acquired larger excavators and a fleet of barges, tugboats, cranes, and dump trucks, specifically for the project.
Silt, debris, illegal structures cause flooding
Ang reported that accumulated silt and debris as well as illegal structures have reduced the Tullahan River’s depth to only one to two meters in many areas, causing heavy floods in surrounding areas in recent years.
“Based on studies by the DPWH, we will need to deepen the river by five meters,” Ang said.
Help from expert foreign consultants allowed the company to identify the rivers, creeks, tributaries, and bodies of water that are in need of cleaning, dredging, and widening to further address flooding in Bulacan.
Long-term, sustainable solution
Ang also addressed claims made by groups opposing the airport’s construction that it would “worsen” the flooding situation, “On the contrary, the airport project and its flood mitigation component will be the long-term and sustainable solution to the perennial flooding in Bulacan. It will not make sense for us to build an airport here if we do not address these issues,” Ang said, emphasizing that there is no one solution to flooding, rather, it has to be a combination of many solutions.
Apart from the Tullahan cleanup, San Miguel also recently kicked off a massive mangrove planting initiative that will see 190,000 mangroves planted over 76 hectares of coastal lands in Bulacan and all over Central Luzon.
“Keeping the Tullahan river clean will involve a more conscious and coordinated effort among many stakeholders, including the local government units and residents. Under the strong leadership of President Duterte, I have no doubt that we can bring the revival of the Tullahan River and the long-term solution to the flooding problem into reality. ”Ang said.