Should The Government Remove Factories Along Pasig River?

There’s this unresolved question over at Yahoo! Answers, which I would like to answer here in this space. Here’s the question:

Should the Philippine government order the removal of manufacturing plants/factories along the Pasig River?

It’s pretty obvious government and even private sector initiatives to clean up the Pasig River have failed to achieve the desire result. Pasig River remains dirty. There are no indications things will be improving soon.

There are reports of “green” projects meant to reverse the river’s polluted state. Private companies are supposedly contributing money to a common fund meant to be used to save Pasig river.

In my opinion, these are all just publicity stunts meant to soften the negative reputation of many of the companies operating along the river.

Should the government just remove these companies’ plants/factories located along the river?

Here’s my answer:

It cannot be denied that manufacturing plants and factories located along the stretch of Pasig River and its tributaries are responsible for the pollution in this body of water that connects Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay.

It is only in recent years and only after “environmental awareness” and “going green” became buzzwords that companies responsible for these facilities started adjusting their operations to minimize their impact on the environment. Since then much has already been done to arrest further deterioration of the river. Unfortunately, all efforts toward this done came too little too late.

Personally, I feel ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the river are largely cosmetic and carried out more as a way to cleanse the image and reputations of these companies.

Unilever Philippines has this to say about its “green” efforts:

Our factory in Paco is at the heart of the city of Manila straddling between small tributaries of the Pasig River. The dreadful state and realities of the river are things we see and smell everyday, particularly during the summer months. Pasig River is a 25-km waterway stretching between Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay. It has been a vital part of the history and fortunes of Manila. The object of our campaign is to reverse the fortunes of a dying river and sustain the life of a threatened lake such as Laguna de Bay.

And here are some news reports on supposed clean up efforts done by various private and government entities.

Rehabilitation of Paco estero underway

Student Volunteers Clean Estero de Paco

Now let’s point out the obvious. Clean ups like those highlighted in the foregoing reports are nothing but band-aid solutions. I’m not even sure if the word “solution” should even be used to describe them.

I also can’t imagine how doing something so small can address a problem so big. We need only consider the fact that some of these companies continue to produce stuff that eventually find their way into our sewerage systems, esteros and ultimately to Pasig River.

There’s also that nagging question about the credibility of certain initiatives supposedly being carried out for the river’s benefit.

Negosyo Ba?

So should the government just order the removal of plants and factories along Pasig River?

The ideal answer would be a resounding yes. Why even bother to hold Pasig River fun runs, pick-and-shovel clean up drives and other marketing-driven “green” initiatives when these efforts do not directly hit the source of pollutants.

Why not just remove the source of pollution from the affected area?

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10 Responses to Should The Government Remove Factories Along Pasig River?

  1. asapakayo says:

    Do you seriously think this administration will be able to revive Pasig River? Have you been living under a rock? Former President Fidel Ramos was a civil engineer and he failed to bring the river back to life. His successor, Joseph Estrada, was — well — never mind. And, how about Former President Gloria Arroyo? Nada.

    What makes you think or rather hope President Benigno Aquino III has what it takes to reclaim Pasig River from those who have made it their backyard? I’m not only referring to the informal settlers who have made the banks of Pasig River their home and toilet. There are much bigger fish to fry. Of course I’m talking about the big companies that continue to operate their factories along the river.

    I have a theory. These big companies and some of the squatters along Pasig River are in league with each other. Do a visual inspection and take note of the physical layout of the squatter colonies. You will notice that these colonies are usually in close proximity to these companies’ manufacturing plants, factories, and warehouses. It’s as if the shanties serve as buffer, a protective wall for those industrial facilities.

    Believe you me, this administration will not succeed in rehabilitating Pasig River unless it develops serious political will. Rehabilitating the river requires lots of it. For how else should the government deal with the squatters and the local and multinational companies that continue to operate along the river and its tributaries.

    Piecemeal solutions such as clean up operations done one estero at a time are not effective. It’s obvious more needs to be done all at once. Remove the source of the pollution you prevent further damage to the river.

    Will the Aquino administration dare pursue this approach. No chance in hell. So stop this nonsense about Pasig River’s rehabilitation. Just accept the fact it’s dead.

    Here’s an idea. Why don’t we just dump soil and cement into the river and turn it into reclaimed real estate?

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  5. Floro Quibuyen says:

    Many thanks “Pasig river avenger” for your interesting observations and concern over the fate of the Pasig river. I’d like to respond to the commentary of “asapakayo.” He writes, “I have a theory. These big companies and some of the squatters along Pasig River are in league with each other. Do a visual inspection and take note of the physical layout of the squatter colonies. You will notice that these colonies are usually in close proximity to these companies’ manufacturing plants, factories, and warehouses. It’s as if the shanties serve as buffer, a protective wall for those industrial facilities.”

    Here’s my reply to Asapakayo’s “as if” conspiracy theory:

    The sprouting of slums is an inevitable consequence of industrial and commercial development. Whenever factories or shopping malls are built, workers are needed. But where will these workers come from? And, more importantly, where would they live? Thus, these commercial/industrial structures act as magnets for (usually migrant) workers who would need a space to sleep. The most economical solution to this problem, from the point of view of the workers, is to simply build shanties near the factories or the construction sites. Once these shanties are built, the workers never leave, even if the construction work is finished. Hence, commercial/industrial development and the proliferation of slums are two sides of the same coin—both are inseparable, integral aspects of modernization and development in the capitalist system. Political movers and shakers—Ramos, Erap, GMA, and, now, Pinoy Aguino—no matter how “well-intentioned” (and, I’m afraid, not even the indomitable Celdran on whom you place so much hope)—will, of course, not be able to solve the problem, because the problem, at its very roots, is the peripheral position of the Philippines in the global capitalist system. This is what underdevelopment means—it is not the absence of development, but rather, it is a form of perverted development. Until a viable, sustainable alternative to the capitalist system is worked out and becomes a reality, Pasig river will remain moribund. This is the fate of “The Commons” in an underdeveloped, peripheral, capitalist economy. Our task, as ordinary folks is to band together (with the likes of Celdran and all concerned citizens) to RECLAIM THE COMMONS–“a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

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