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“Years ago, reviving our river seemed like an impossible dream. Today we have learned how much can be done, if we all learn from each other.”

This is the battlecry of the 1st Philippine International River Summit which will kick off in Iloilo City on May 30-June 1, 2012.

Themed “My Rive, My Life,” the summit will showcase development projects being implemented in the waterway at the heart of the city including the ongoing multi-million Esplanade construction, dredging and relocation of informal settlers along the riverbank, among others.

“The recognitions for Iloilo River are a manifestation that we the Ilonggos should take good care of our river. It has given our ancestors life, it is giving us life, it will give life to our children, and our children’s children. We are blessed to have the abundance of the river. All we have to do is to rehabilitate, preserve and protect it,” stressed Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.

The forum will highlight global challenges, issues and best practices in river management, set amidst the real-life learning laboratory of the Iloilo River Rehabilitation Project.

The conference will feature three key areas of interest including governance; rehabilitation, protection and restoration; and development.

Perspective of Iloilo River Esplanade Project

The big event is initiated by the City Government and supported by the Rivers of the World (ROW) Foundation, Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (EMB-DENR), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Petron Corp.

New Delhi-based ROW Foundation, a global group dedicated to restoring and protecting rivers and streams around the globe, aims to remedy the massive pollution created by the untreated discharges from the urban and suburban watersheds of various rivers and creeks.

The summit has been inspired by the Gold Award won by Iloilo River Development Project in the 2010 International Awards for Livable Communities (LivCom) in Chicago, USA and last year’s Silver Award for “A Post Livcom: Advancing the Iloilo River Development Initiatives through Integrated Sustainable Management” in Songpa, Seoul, Korea.

Mabilog said the awards would serve as a tool in asking for grants from possible funding agencies for project implementation considering the LivCom is endorsed by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

LivCom has considered the best practices for Iloilo River as an approach to sustainable development which encompasses enhancement of landscape, heritage management, environmentally-sensitive practices, community sustainability and planning for the future.

The Iloilo River is actually a 15-kilometer long estuarine, deriving fresh water from rivers and creeks that are connected to it and saline water from the sea that feeds it.

The waterway maintains a high level of productive biological activities as it serves as nursery for many important fish species such as bangus and tilapia while the rise and fall of the tide makes it possible for nutrients (such as planktons and detritus) to circulate in and out of the estuary, according to studies.

Interestingly, the Iloilo River is home to 22 of the country’s 35 mangrove species.

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