Advocates for environmental protection and sustainability welcomed reports of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) that it has completed its clean-up initiative for the Tullahan River, a project to mitigate floodings in northern Metro Manila and help rehabilitate Manila Bay.
With the completion of the project, the private sector was urged  follow suit and help protect, rehabilitate and ensure the sustainability of the country’s natural resources.
The clean-up of Tullahan River  was funded by SMC at a cost of P1 billion and was launched in 2020. It is the first partnership between SMC and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the Adopt-a-River program of the government.
The Tullahan-Tinajeros River system is a major tributary of Manila Bay and considered one of the most polluted waterways in the metropolis. It spans 27 kilometers from the La Mesa Water Reservoir in Quezon City to Centennial Park in Navotas City, flowing through the cities of Malabon, Caloocan, and Valenzuela.
The cleanup project involved garbage removal, and dredging and widening the river. Dredging deepens the river and increases its carrying capacity and allows free flow of water from upstream, aside from eliminating sediments that affect water quality in the waterways, experts said.
The project had five phases: Phase 1 involved dredging the part of the Tullahan-Tinajeros River from Manila Bay to Tonsuya Bridge; Phase 2 from Tonsuya Bridge to Lambingan Bridge; Phase 3 from Lambingan Bridge to Tinajeros Bridge; Phase 4 from Tinajeros Bridge to Tullahan Bridge, and Phase 5 from Tullahan Bridge up to Potrero.
With the completion of the project, 1.12 million metric tons of wastes were removed from the river of which 1,342 tons of solid wastes were extracted by the SMC team on the last day of operations at the Tullahan River. Despite the pandemic, SMC was able to breach the one-million-ton target.
SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang (RSA) said with the cleanup of Tullahan River, flooding will be mitigated especially during the rainy season in nearby communities.  He thanked everyone who contributed to getting the job done.
“We’re extremely proud of what this partnership with the government and other stakeholders has achieved,” he added. “We are another step closer to realizing the dream of having truly clean and healthy rivers that 
can be enjoyed and appreciated by future generations.”
The completion of Tullahan River rehabilitation project demonstrates SMC’s purposeful drive for accomplishment to benefit fellow Filipinos. Its active participation in government programs to protect the environment is indeed admirable.
In his extemporaneous speech at the inauguration of the Million Trees Nursery and Eco Learning Center inside the La Mesa Watershed, RSA recalled how other taipans promised then Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to do their part in dredging the Tullahan River and  other tributaries that need private sector participation.
 “Everyone was eager and there was photo opportunity with the DENR. I don’t know how they were able to deliver on their promise but what I am sure of is that SMC fulfilled and delivered on its promise in the dredging of Tullahan River,” he said.
Aside from the Tullahan River rehabilitation, SMC is also actively involved in cleaning up Pasig River. It has allocated P2 billion for the initiative. Like Tullahan River, Pasig River empties into Manila Bay and a repository of untreated domestic and industrial wastes and plastic waste. This water pollution is a man-made problem that results in the destruction of marine life, among others.
SMC’s partnership with DENR for the Pasig River rehabilitation initiative was formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement in 2021. The Pasig River dredging project is also part of the conglomerate’s commitment to the Adopt-a-River program.The collaborative effort aims to extract at least 600,000 metric tons of silt and solid waste per year to clean the Pasig River, improve water quality and lessen flooding in Metro Manila. Some 510,760 metric tons of silt and waste from the polluted Pasig River has been collected as of August 13 this year.
Aside from the Pasig River rehabilitation, SMC will also start cleaning up the rivers belonging to the Marilao-Mecauayan-Obando River System in Bulacan. The initiative will be part of the flood mitigation measures in the province of Bulacan which is site of the New Manila International Airport (NMIA).
San Miguel Aerocity, Inc., a subsidiary of SMC responsible for the design, construction, financing, and operations of the NMIA commissioned a study to assess the impact of the airport development on flooding in the province. Measures to mitigate flooding in the province have been identified.
For RSA, rehabilitating waterways involves a holistic approach. “This will entail a solid waste and wastewater management system that will involve all stakeholders, including local and national government agencies, the private sector, and more importantly, the communities that are beside or near the river,” he said.
SMC has embarked on coastal cleanup efforts in collaboration with community volunteers in Tanza, Navotas and Calatagan, Batangas. The conglomerate’s effort to rehabilitate our waterways is inspiring.
Let us emulate the good work SMC under RSA has done. And our esteemed salute to RSA, an environmentalist who walks his talk in getting done for Mother Nature.