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Miss Earth bets act to save river

GULOD LABAC, Batangas City – Candidates of the Miss Philippines Earth 2016 beauty pageant have planted mangroves on the banks of the Calumpang River in Barangays Cuta and Kumintang Ibaba here to save the “Nile of Batangas.”

Reigning Miss Earth Angelia Gabrena Ong led the candidates in planting mangroves on the 427-square kilometer river.

Assisting them were Tommy Tantoco, CFO, and Fely Ramos, SVP/COO, of Pontefino Estates; Oliver Gonzales, USAID leader for the Calum-pang River Rehabilitation Project of the Batangas City Environment and Natural Resources Office; Peachy Veneracion, director of pageant organizer Carousel Productions; students, and private organizations.

Councilor Lilia Andal of Barangay Gulod Labac, head of the Save the Calumpang River Movement, said that the mangroves were donated by First Gas vice president Mon Araneta and other groups.

Andal said that only 30 percent of the river has been planted with mangroves since the movement was established in 2012. She also said that the mortality rate of the plants is only 60 to 70 percent.

“We still need the help of other groups to sustain this program. In some cases, we cannot maintain them due to lack of funds,” she added. Fortunately, several organizations have visited the area to help them in rehabilitating the river, she said.

“Some of them visit the area anytime of the year. Thousands of mangroves have been planted here pero it’s not enough,” Andal said.

A 2000 scientific study cited factors that led to the river’s polluted water, such as the direct dumping of wastes, dead animals, and other untreated sewage; household waste waters; fetal wastes from slaughter houses, quarrying, and livestock raising.

Another study made by the University of Batangas in 2006 showed that the river’s fish and shrimp species were at risk of being contaminated with heavy metals.

In 2011, Calumpang River has been classified as a Class D river by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Water in the river is extremely polluted and not suitable for drinking and bathing. If treated, the water from the river can only be used for agriculture, irrigation, and livestock watering.

Ong is hoping to sit down with president-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte and discuss the importance of the environment.