MANILA, June 5, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The blanket of trash on a creek that flows
between the makeshift homes of a Manila slum is so dense it appears one could
walk across it like a paved street.
However, the thick and fetid mosaic of plastic bottles, takeaway
containers and plastic bags is just a porous layer atop the filthy water of
Estero de Magdalena.
It is one of the tributaries that run into Manila’s most important and
heavily polluted waterways, the Pasig River.
City officials blame the slum’s residents for using the creek as an open-
air dump and have installed massive strainers in the water that keeps the
trash from flowing downstream.
“They (residents) are turning the creeks into a trash can,” said Lorenzo
Alconera, an official with the city engineering department.
“We want to block it at that point so we can easily collect the garbage.
We do not want it to flow into the Pasig River,” he added.
Trash that makes it into the river can then be swept out into the South
China Sea or be sucked back by tides into the Laguna de Bay, the country’s
Plastic pollution is a major problem in the Philippines, which along with
China, Vietnam and Indonesia is frequently listed among the world’s worst
The city says it periodically uses heavy equipment to scoop the rubbish
from the water and ends up with five to 10 truck loads of waste to haul away.
That is of little consolation to the impoverished families who live in
homes cobbled together from pallets, scraps of wood and corrugated steel
stained with rust.
Authorities say the trash-choked creek is a breeding ground for
preventable illnesses like cholera and typhoid fever.
Beyond concerns over the infections that thrive in the waterway, residents
also have to deal with a constant and unavoidable concern: its stench.
“We cannot properly sleep because of the garbage. Whether it rains or is
sunny, there are the smells,” 35-year-old vendor Marlyn Estrada Calderon told