Role of Civil Society Organizations in the Pasig River Environmental Management and Rehabilitation Sector Development Program

Pasig River, the main waterway in Metro Manila, Philippines, isconsidered to be of historical, social, cultural and economic significance fordevelopment, not only of the national capital, but of the whole country aswell. It played an important role in the early industrialization and urbanization of the megacity, being the center of trade and transport evenbefore the Spaniards settled in the Philippines.  With rapid industrialization, urbanization and growth of thecity after World War II, the river became a sink for indiscriminate discharge of untreated industrial and municipal solid waste and wastewater. The riverbanks attracted informal settlements and adjacent areas became blighted and depressed. In the 1990s the river was considered biologically dead.   

 The Pasig River Environmental Management and Rehabilitation Sector Development Program (PAREMAR) was implemented from 2000-2009 for cleaning up the river. The program included an integrated approach of policy reforms and investment projects. Theprogram sought to improve the water quality of Pasig River to Class C standard, establish 10-meter wide environmental preservation areas (EPAs) along theriverbanks, upgrade infrastructure, provide municipal services and facilitiesin urban regeneration areas adjacent to EPAs, provide sanitation services andcapacitate local governments and other agencies in environmental management.

 Extensive consultations with affected communities and civil society, including 60 community and nongovernment organizations (NGOs), were conducted-on the impacts of the EPAs and the relocation of about 10,000 squatter families living on these EPAs. NGOs included Gawad Kalinga, Urban Poor Associates, Cardinal SinFoundation and the Urban Poor Network. The NGO sector facilitated the formulation of a resettlement plan and assisted in the relocation of affected families. Moreover, they helped in constructing low-cost housing (Gawad Kalinga) using sweat equity from the beneficiaries, prepared the relocation sites with the help of local government units by providing housing facilities and services such as schools, clinics, multipurpose halls, lighting, etc.

 This paper explores the importance of civil society's role (community organizations andNGOs) in the achievement of the objectives of PAREMAR. It gives an account of the formal and informal processes undertaken through their actions, their influence in problem solving and lessons that could be learned from their mobilization. 


Imelda Abstract SSG09.doc26 KB
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