DAGUPAN CITY, Pangasinan: The city government here will adopt a program used to rehabilitate the Pasig River in its efforts to preserve the beauty of the rivers in Dagupan and prevent massive damages resulting from siltation and pollution.
Mayor Belen Fernandez is forming a supervisory body similar to the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) to realize her project “Sa Ilog Ko, May Pagbabago” to be launched next year.
The PRRC with executive director Ramil Tan conducted a river reconnaissance survey last December 20 along the rivers of Pugaro, Salapingao, Lomboy, Calmay, Carael, Tanap and Dawel to help Dagupan City realize its goal of duplicating the commission’s accomplishments in rehabilitating the Pasig River.
“In our ‘Sa Ilog Ko, May Pagbabago’ project, we have already cleared our rivers of the 690 illegal structures of fishpen operators and we want to know from the PRRC what to do next. I saw how their program worked beautifully through the convergence of the stakeholders’ efforts,” Fernandez said.
According to her, she has seen the power of convergence in action with other government agencies, saying there is still an urgent need to work more for the city’s rivers and esteros.
Fernandez has secured livelihood assistance from the Department of Agriculture for displaced illegal fishpen caretakers who have been provided with fishing boats and nets.
She was able to work for dredging of the city’s main rivers with the help of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The mayor established the Island Tour with different private entities donating three flat boats for local and foreign tourists cruising along the Calmay and Pantal rivers.
The city is constructing 400 housing units in Bonuan Boquig in cooperation with the Department of Social Welfare and Development for residents living along the areas, which are considered as most vulnerable to floods and tsunami.
“Relocation of informal settlers, however, is done voluntarily because we have to consider the availability first of a resettlement site and their livelihood as well as the tourism aspects of the program,” Fernandez said.
She added that the city has around 1,000 to 2,000 informal settlers now living along the river banks and esteros.
“What we want to learn now is how to sustain our project. I admire [Environment] Secretary Gina Lopez, who started the PRRC, for what she has done with this program. I saw her passion, which we need in our city and the power of convergence, which involves the government and the members of the community,” Fernandez said.
As an initial step to rehabilitate the rivers of Dagupan, Tan recommended the construction of a walkway or an environmental preservation area along both banks of the Pantal River and the formation of a cooperative-type of livelihood for informal settlers.
“[Dagupan has] a beautiful river that is better than Loboc of Bohol,” he said.