DENR admits Marikina River literally shrinking

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NO less than the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has admitted that the Marikina River is literally shrinking amid the proliferation of illegal reclamation along its bend.

Citing records of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority as basis, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that the Marikina River significantly reduced its carrying capacity because of two reasons – siltation and reclamation.

According to the DENR chief, the Marikina River’s width was reduced by more than 27 hectares on both sides because of illegal reclamation by moneyed individuals and businesses, even as he claimed to have spotted at least 25 parcels, which used to be part and parcel of the waterway.

Cimatu, who joined an aerial survey for the culmination of the dredging activities in Marikina River, also hinted at the river’s heavy siltation as a major factor that contributed to the massive flooding that struck Marikina and other cities in Metro Manila in November last year.

“Using official land records dating back as far as 1914 and 1961, historical maps and satellite photos from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority as basis, the DENR National Capital Region conducted aerial and ground verification surveys that confirmed encroachments not only in the river but in the designated legal easements as well,” Cimatu said.

The same record showed discrepancy in Marikina River’s width. From 90 meters, the waterway leading to the Laguna de Bay has shrunk to less than 80 meters.

The dredging operation, which starts this week, will initially take on the portion of the river near Marcos Highway in Barangay Calumpang with a simultaneous bamboo planting in Barangay Industrial Valley Complex.

Based on a recent land survey, the DENR said that some 271,625 square meters were illegally reclaimed and ate up not just the mandatory three-meter easement but also the river itself, constituting violation of Section 51 of Presidential Decree 1067 or the Philippine Water Code.

Presidential Decree 1067 or the Philippine Water Code prohibits the construction of any permanent structure within three meters of the banks of rivers and lakes in urban areas, as these areas are reserved “for public use.”

Of the 25 reclaimed areas, eight parcels covering more than 12,000 square meters directly ate up the river, while five titled lots covering 10,400 square meters were illegally extended and ate up the three-meter easement and went on to reclaim a portion of the Marikina River.

Worse, 16 titled properties measuring 22,467 square meters were constructed in the river itself.

Under these circumstances, Cimatu vowed to “show our political will here and sustain our efforts to rehabilitate Marikina River and other waterways.” He, however, did not say how he intends to deal with the individuals and businesses behind the illegal reclamation.

Interestingly, among those that the DENR has spotted to have directly encroached on the river is that of a business firm believed to be owned by former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando, who also served as Marikina City mayor for nine years.

After dredging the waterway, Cimatu said that bamboos would be propagated along the riverbanks if only to ensure that soil won’t erode back into the water.

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