Tuesday, June 5, 2012

ILOILO River: A River of Life

aerial view of Iloilo City circa 1950s, photo courtesy of Museo Iloilo

The Iloilo River runs right through the heart of Iloilo City. Like a ribbon winding its way across the city, it has a length of 15 kilometers with its water flowing from the town of Oton at Batiano Creek and traverses and nourishes some of the most populated areas in the city, namely, the districts of La Paz, Mandurriao, Molo, Arevalo and the City Proper.

photo courtesy of Museo Iloilo

The Iloilo River has played a fundamental role in the lives, history, culture and civilization of the Ilonggos for thousands of years. Throughout history, the river serves asa major source of transportation, water, food, and livelihoodfor a large number of Ilonggos. Water from theriver is a basic natural resource, essential for various human activities; Iloilo River banks have accordingly attracted settlers since antiquity. It is such an important part of Iloilo that theCity Hall and the Provincial Capitol is located on the shores of the Iloilo River.

The Iloilo River is a resource of immense environmental and social values. It is a major aquatic landscape for all kinds of plants and animals. It supports the growth of 22 mangrove species out of 35 national species.It is home to 634 hectares of fishponds blessed with 31 species of fish, crabs and shrimps that supports the livelihood of 130 fisherfolks. The Iloilo River is truly a river of waters of lifeand how grateful Ilonggos can be for that.

As the Ilonggo population continues to grow and tourism increases, there will be new pressures on the river system. At present, there are 9,062 ship calls transporting 1.6 million passengers yearly.A number of 2,995 businesses are situated in the estuary areagenerating USD 176 million in investments.

The salinity problem serves as a parable for the other problems now emerging for the river. The destruction of a river does not happen overnight. It comes as the result of years of unplanned and uncontrolled development, from the gradual accumulation of the effects of an increasing number of minor incidents.

Intensive developments are springing up along the river with inadequate waste disposal facilities; thus, threatening the water quality of tributary streams. And because of this, fish populations continue to decline. It is the “tyranny of small decisions” which has led to the destruction of our river.

It is by good luck rather than good management that we still have resources worth saving and only good management will save them now.

If “sustainable development” is to have any real meaning for the Iloilo River system, we need to establish a commitment to maintain and improve existing water quality. We must implement policies which aim at minimizing the pollution of our river. Our inland rivers unique advantages, which if effectively utilized will enable us to make sustainable development a reality.

With the present administration, much has been achieved. Headed by the city mayor, Honorable Jed Patrick Mabilog and with the support of Senator Franklin Drilon, the city government has moved to improve water quality legislation so that there is now a general commitment to maintaining existing river quality by requiring the best practical methods of waste treatment and disposal.

River rehabilitation efforts are now focused on involving the community as part of the cleanup process.Embarked on this project is to educate establishments and the communities living along the river on the need to preserve the river’s natural flora and fauna and to discourage indiscriminate dumping. An agreement has been reached, committing 76,938 residents from 35 villages along iloilo river; and suported by faculty and students from nine (9) colleges and universities; involving 2,995 establishments within the estuary.

Government sectors, service providers as well as local leaders and politicians have also taken a keen interest and came forward to play their part in supporting this project. And because of this, major programs have been accomplished that include: (a) Removal of fish pens that allowed the return of important fish species and enhance growth of fish population; (b) Dredging of the Iloilo River that will result to reduction of flood to flood-prone areas in the city; (c) Decongestion of Navigable Areas with the removal of sunken ships and relics; (d) Relocation of Informal Settlers with the preparation of 1,000 housing units to 5,000 informal settlers; (e) Construction of the Iloilo River Esplanade to promote eco-tourism and provide the Ilonggos with recreational areas; and (f) Clearing-up of Iloilo River to improve navigation and scenery, and reduce water pollution.

Conserving nature’s running waters in as pristine a state as we inherited it, is the best gift for our children and the world they will live in. the choice is still before us. We still have time to rehabilitate and maintain the water quality and environment of our inland river, provided we can muster the resources and political will to implement river management policies effectively.


  1. from the CENRO office of Iloilo City, the data was given to me from the head of the CENRO Office. The same data i used when i made a short video presentation about the iloilo river during the international water summit few years ago.


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