200 volunteers from the Philippine government, police, army, university, civil society, community and industry collaborated on the planting of 10,500 bamboo and mangrove seedlings to clean and revitalize an important river system in the Province of Bulacan. They joined together for the December event along tributaries of the San Jose Del Monte and coast of Obando, stabilizing streambanks and rehabilitating mangrove areas of the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando (MMO) river system.

Mangrove tree planting volunteers digging in.

Located on the northern fringes of metropolitan Manila, the watershed hosts a multitude of industries and urban activities. Both formal and informal industries use toxic metals that eventually find their way to thousands of hectares of commercial fishponds downstream and shellfish beds in adjoining Manila Bay. Involved industries include artisanal gold and precious metal refineries, lead acid battery recycling, tanneries and backyard enterprises.

Most lacked any waste treatment facilities before 2005 when Blacksmith Institute began work to halt ongoing pollution and treat legacy wastes. The MMO watershed was included in Blacksmith's "Dirty Thirty" report published in 2007. With watershed-wide representation, the local Stakeholder Group that Blacksmith supports meets frequently on issues like the toxicology of the basin and for the demonstration of pilot projects.

Expressing government support, Philippine Congresswoman Linabelle Villarica (District IV, Bulacan) addressed participants at the cleanup, reiterating her commitment to reviving the MMO river system, both through policy and practices like that day's tree planting; and Obando Mayor Orencio Gabriel and San Jose Del Monte Mayor Reynaldo San Pedro joined in planting activities.

(top to bottom) Congresswoman Linabelle Villarica; Mayor Orencio Gabriel; Mayor Reynaldo San Pedro

For this event Blacksmith partnered with Globe Telecommunications, the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, both Region 3 and Bulacan, and the MMO Water Qua lity Management Board. Mel Besa, Safety, Health, Environment Manager of Globe Telecommunications, led the Globe team. Private sector support also was provided by SM Marilao, Harman Foods Corp., and Multi-Rich Corp. Volunteers came from University of the Philippines Los Banos and Bulacan State University; Barangay Councils and organizations in San Jose Del Monte and Obando; local Philippine police and army; and MMO Water Quality Management Quick Response Teams. They were formed as part of the Greenline Project organized by the MMO Water Quality Management Board, Globe Telecommunications, and Blacksmith.

Blacksmith's Philippine Country Coordinator Jennifer Marie Sunga-Amparo addresses the large crowd of volunteers.  She is an assistant professor in the department of social development services at the University of the Philippines Los Banos.

A ground level view of some of the 10,500 bamboo and mangrove propagules and seedlings planted.