MANILA -- San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday formalized a joint commitment to undertake an extensive cleanup of the Tullahan River system -- a crucial step to rehabilitating the Manila Bay.

Ramon S. Ang, SMC president and chief operating officer, and DENR secretary Roy Cimatu signed the landmark memorandum of agreement (MoA) that will implement a comprehensive dredging and cleanup of the 59.24-km tributary that starts from the La Mesa Reservoir and traverses the cities of Valenzuela and Malabon, before reaching the mouth of Manila Bay through Navotas City.

Ang said SMC will provide the DENR PHP1 billion to fund the massive cleanup effort.

“The cleanup of the Tullahan River, like other river systems going out to Manila Bay, is crucial to bringing back the glory of the Manila Bay,” SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said.

"We are proud to partner with the DENR on this project. In the last couple of months, we have seen what can be done when our government has both political will and a clear understanding of what can be done to make a difference," he added.

Ang said the project is a "perfect" example of the kind of environmental progress that the public and private sector can achieve together.

Under the five-year agreement, San Miguel Corporation’s tasks include:

  * Implementation of a dredging and clean-up plan provided by the DENR to reduce solid wastes and floating debris.

  * To lend equipment, manpower, and funding for equipment operations such as fuel and logistics costs.

  * To assist in the community mobilization activities of the DENR.

  * To install a trash trap, transfer dredged materials, and install signage in relation to the rehabilitation program.

San Miguel, which operates the country’s oldest brewery in Polo, Valenzuela, has for many decades been dredging the Tullahan River.

In the past, it also donated backhoes and a barge to local government units, among many other efforts. Its wastewater facilities in its plant also help ensure clean water makes it back to the river.

“Despite our best efforts to make the Tullahan a living, vital waterway, and even as we have managed to lessen the flooding during the rainy season by removing silt and garbage, the problem is too big,” Ang said.

“When you think of the Tullahan, you think of a dead river, an eyesore and a health hazard. But with the leadership and resolve of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and President Rodrigo Duterte, we know all this will change, just like in Boracay and the Manila Bay", he added.

Ang is confident that with the support of the DENR, local government units and local residents, the project will be a success.

During the six-month closure of Boracay, San Miguel provided government support by making its employee-volunteers at the Boracay airport in Caticlan, available for the cleanup effort.

It also adopted two of nine wetlands that filter inland wastewater before it moves to the sea.

Recently, the company announced that it had saved 7.7 billion liters of water under its “Water For All” program, which aims to reduce the company’s water footprint by 50 percent by year 2025.

The results mean San Miguel and its subsidiaries cut their water use by 23 percent in 2018, beating by two years its 2020 interim target of 20 percent reduction. (PR)