Back in the old days—we're talking about the turn of the 20th century to perhaps the Commonwealth period, based on photos of old Manila— esteros or canals were clean and even used for transporting people and goods to various places.
But the march of time and the onrush of urbanization turned these vital waterways into murky and dirty shadows of their old selves, with informal settlers having taken over the banks and polluting the water.
There's hope, however, that these esteros that were designed to take rampaging floodwaters off the streets of Manila and bring these to the Pasig River and eventually to Manila Bay can be restored to their former glory.
We commend the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) for marking an important milestone with the restoration of Estereo de San Miguel to its once-pristine condition.
The PRRC managed to rehabilitate the 2.3-kilometer tributary of Pasig River that runs behind Malacañang in a span of three years.
The PRRC is said to have spent P52 million in 2014 for the restoration of the estero, alongside efforts to clear the banks of families residing near the waterway. Over a hundred informal settlers who built shanties in the area were later relocated in Bulacan province.
The agency conducted dredging, built linear parks, planted ornamental trees, and carried out phytoremediation or the treatment of contaminated water using plants in Estero de San Miguel.
In May, the PRRC installed trash traps along the canal that were designed to block garbage entering the artificial watercourse and help volunteers in collecting the trash easily.
The estero now shows clearer waters with ornamental plants lining the banks of the waterway — a sign of its revival after decades of pollution.
Estero de San Miguel is one of several waterways, including Estero de Aviles in Sampaloc, Estero de Binondo, Estero de Magdalena, and Estero de Vitas, that are being eyed for cleanup and restoration by the multi-sectoral drive of the PRRC.
We wish them all the best in their noble undertaking, one estero at a time.