The Pasig River was once a very important trade channel for the city of Manila, however, those days are long over. The once important route is now a mere shell of its previous glory – torn and ravaged by urbanization and left dirtied by the country’s poor sewage system.

Although it seems like there’s no way to overturn Pasig River’s situation, many are still hoping to restore the once pristine waters of the tidal estuary – and people have come to call them the ‘river warriors.’

Each morning – armed with their rubber boots and sacks, these so-called warriors collect trash from the Pasig River, which has been tagged as one of the most polluted in the world.

Photo from PRCMO’s Official Facebook Page

They’re part of a 10-year-old group, who number 100. Originally, they were volunteers, but are now being provided income by the local government for their hard work. 

According to Angelita Imperio, who’s been a river warrior for six years, their mission seems to never end as trash continues to pile up in the river.

“There’s never a time without garbage here. It’s unlimited,” Imperio told news outlet Reuters

As part of their clean-up routine, the warriors break up into smaller groups and assign each a location to clean. 

Dexter Opiana, who’s served as a volunteer for more than half a decade, said the group collects at least 80 to 100 sacks of trash a day and even more during monsoon season – filled with wrappers, sachets, and single-use plastics. 

According to her, she and 19 other members work in shifts of about seven hours a day to collect trash along the river. 

Photo from PRCMO’s Official Facebook Page

If you think this problem is only limited to the Philippines, then you’ve been out of the loop for a while now. 

According to the Our World in Data report released by Oxford University this 2021, the Philippines is one of the biggest contributors of plastic in the world’s ocean, specifically in the region of Asia. 

The Pasig River alone is responsible for 6.43% of ocean plastic originating from rivers, the report revealed. 

Though their mission seems never-ending, the group is staying optimistic. 

“This has been our advocacy, to have the river cleaned for the sake of our children, our parents, our nation, and mother nature,” Imperio said.

Photo from PRCMO’s Official Facebook Page

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Assistant Secretary Joan Lagunda said the national government is collaborating with local government units (LGUs) to implement waste segregation in zones near the river and re-locate people living along the estuary. 

Meanwhile, Green Peace Philippines campaigner Marian Ledesma suggests that the banning of single-use plastic is the key to cleaning up the river as well as the strengthening of waste disposal procedures. 

“I’ve seen it done in other cities, in other countries, so I don’t think it’s impossible to revive and clean up Pasig River,” she told Reuters.

“It will need a collective action,” Ledesma noted.

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Image credit: PRCMO’s Official Facebook Page