“By the river we sat down and swam.”

This might be the memories that moved Ilonggo Senator Franklin Drilon who makes saving Iloilo River a crusade more than just a public servant but himself.

“I have a personal confession to make. Being a lawyer, my platform and agenda is on justice system and rule of law. But after I have seen how the Iloilo River deteriorated – the river where I and Governor Arthur Defensor used to swim – I said I will adapt the agenda on climate change and environment protect – and I would start here in Iloilo,” he stressed.

Self crusade

“That is why I began sitting down in the Iloilo River Development Council. I am committed to revive Iloilo River as centerpiece of economic development in Iloilo,” Drilon told Thursday over a thousand participants of 1st International River Summit in Iloilo City which runs till June 1.

He spoke about the Iloilo River project and Jalaur River Project he initiated in his beloved city and province.

“What have we done so far?”

Drilon directed the removal of 48 derelicts and idle vessels which were blocking the river for about a decade, bout 100 illegal fishpens and dikes.

He allocated P70-M from his Priority Development Assistance Fund for construction of 1.2-km Iloilo Esplanade.

“To prevent loss of human lives and destruction of properties should there be a major natural disaster such as massive flooding, I personally requested the President and National Housing Authority to allocate P344-M for relocation of about 3,500 families who are living along the danger zones of Iloilo River and its tributaries,” he added.

Billions of pesos pour for river

“Most important is the construction of P11.2-B Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II) we initiated last year. Once completed, it will provide year-round irrigation to approximately 32,000-has of farm land and benefit more than 783,000 farmers, thus contributing substantially to sustaining the country’s rice self-sufficiency level,” Drilon said.

President Aquino will formally launch the four-year project June 1 which is targeted to be completed by June 30, 2016.

Ideas for rivers

The global summit gathers the best minds from local governments, river councils, civil society, academe and private sector.

“This international gathering should raise public awareness about the value and benefits of our rivers and how we can ensure that they remain protected so that the generations yet unborn can still enjoy them.

I would like to call on the participants in this assembly to seize this opportunity to gather as many ideas as possible on how we can improve development policies and practices.

I must underscore that local governments, business sector and civil society must consistently work as one in exploring ways to rehabilitate rivers and prevent further damage,” said Drilon.

“We in the Philippine Senate vigorously face this challenge head-on by working on pieces of legislation that will more efficiently conserve and protect our river systems and waterways,” he said.

Most significant is Senate Bill No. 3105 or Philippine River Basin System Administration Act of 2012 seeks to institutionalize a systematic framework for a more responsive river water management and development, especially in light of hazards crated by climate change.

It also aims to establish a coordinated river administration system for flood control, water use and environmental conservation.

Stewards of Mother Nature

“On a personal level, let us ask ourselves if we have been mindful of the trash that we throw away; if we have ever been concerned about the pollutants that have been dumped and are still being dumped down our rivers; and, if we have the strong resolve to care for our rivers which have been suffering from pollution and overuse.

Hence, we need to intensify the campaign to protect our rivers, creeks and streams.

Now, more than ever, we must do our share in preventing an unpleasant scenario to unfold, that of people ferociously fighting over water. The catastrophic consequences, I dare not imagine,” he said.

“Today, our rivers are facing threats and challenges that we, as stewards of Mother Nature’s assets, must address. Among them are urban growth and development, lack of concrete or sound land use policy, climate change, flood risk, agricultural activities, pollution and increasing poor water quality,” he added.

For future generations

“I would like to (share with) you the words of Pope John Paul II to ponder on. He said and I quote: ‘the earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations’.

I would like to throw this challenge to each and every(one): think of ways on how to keep our rivers healthy so that the younger generations and generations yet unborn can still enjoy them. Let us be good stewards of Mother Nature. Let us save our rivers,” encouraged Drilon.

No Prophet of Doom

“My friends, we have become so caught up in our everyday routines that we have taken for granted some of things that have so much bearing in our lives and in the lives of generations that would come after us.

I do not want to be called the Prophet of Doom, but it pays to listen to concerned quarters who have been warning us that one of the fiercest battles in the future is on water,” said Drilon.

Defining rivers

Rivers have defined lives, carved communities and shaped a nation’s landscape and most of all give life to civilization. Cities and towns have been built around them even during medieval times.

Major rivers in the world have always been the lifeblood of communities and have constantly touched millions of lives for centuries. Most of the world’s major cities are situated on or near river banks.

For centuries, rivers have been used for navigation, to transport people and goods and played a critical role in development of cities all over the world.

Since communities are built near rivers, it is not surprising that in many parts of the world, million dollars worth of properties are always at risk of being flooded.

Indeed, the possibility that there will be less water available for people and industries in near future is not remote in view of droughts and famines experienced by many countries in the world.

Hence, it is not an understatement to say that rivers which are not properly managed pose a grave threat to humanity, avowed Drilon.