CENTURIES  OF  INDUSTRIAL  MALPRACTICE  DOOMED  BULACAN  RIVERS

MALOLOS CITY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
(STAR) By Dino Balabo – Over two centuries of industrial malpractice and disregard for the environment caused the contamination of the Meycauayan-Marilao River in Bulacan that was named one of the 30 dirtiest waterways in the world by a New York-based environmental group, officials said.

Bulacan Provincial Administrator Gladys Sta. Rita told The STAR that pollution of the river system began in the 1800s when Chinese settlers set up the tannery factories that process raw cow hide into leather and the jewelry-making shops in Bulacan.

“There was gold in Bulacan then so the Chinese established jewelry shops here,” Sta. Rita said.

In its World’s Worst Polluted Places 2007, the Blacksmith Institute described the Meycauayan-Marilao River as extremely polluted due to the haphazard dumping of industrial waste.

Sta. Rita said the jewelry and tannery industries prospered in Bulacan since the 1800s and at present there are 114 registered jewelers and some 2,000 unregistered jewelry shops in the province.

The tannery industry, on the other hand, peaked in the 1960s to the 1980s, until China started mass production of cheap shoes that flooded the Philippines and the world market.

At present, there are only 22 registered tanneries in Meycauayan and nearby towns.

Sta. Rita said that the tannery and jewelry factories in Bulacan use primitive technology, have no waste water treatment facilities or anti-pollution measures and dump their toxic waste directly into the local river system.

She said jewelers use mercury in their operations, but are now using rubber scrubber to replace mercury in the processing of gold.

Aside from tanneries and jewelry factories, Marilao is also the home of the Philippine Recyclers Inc. (PRI), whose officials used to brag that their waste is clearer than the water of the Marilao River.

Marilao Mayor Epifanio Guillermo told The STAR that “it (PRI waste) might be clear but not clean.”

Sta. Rita said Bulacan officials have already learned of the Blacksmith Institute’s report for a long time.

“We have been working with them (environmentalists) in the last two years. We know that the problem did not happen overnight, and it will not be solved overnight as well,” she said, adding that they have been working with concerned citizens and business leaders to revive the river system.

Mayor Guillermo blamed the residents and factories of the nearby towns of Sta. Maria and San Miguel in Bulacan, Caloocan and Valenzuela City for dumping garbage and hazardous waste into the river.

Residents said that industrial waste is being dumped regularly in a creek while in San Miguel, garbage from Metro Manila and Nueva Ecija end up in the municipal dump in Barangay Balaong just outside the Biak-na-Bato National Park.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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