Instead of imposing penalties on people caught throwing their trash in waterways, they should instead render community service such as doing river cleanups, the head of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said.

MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos said penalties on improper trash disposal, not only in waterways, must be reviewed to harmonize ordinances of each local government unit.

“Siguro pwede nating ilagay dito ang community service dahil mahirap talaga ang buhay ngayon. Imbis siguro na magkapenalty sila or what, sila na lang paglinisin natin ng certain parts of the river para maranasan nila kung talagang gaano kahirap ang maglinis ng rivers na ito, mga estero, mga kanal,” Abalos said in the Laging Handa government briefing on July 1.

Last June 28, the MMDA installed floating trash nets in one of the tributaries of Estero Tripa de Gallina on Tramo Bridge in Pasay City to alleviate the damage caused by garbage in a nearby pumping station.

This was also a pilot move as part of the MMDA’s effort to help rehabilitate the polluted Pasig River.

As the concurrent head of MMDA’s policy-making body Metro Manila Council, Abalos said he would meet Metro Manila mayors to ask for help from the barangay level in hauling the accumulated garbage in the traps. In the newly installed net alone, almost two truckloads of garbage were being hauled daily, Abalos said.

The MMDA chairman said the agency would also monitor settlers along the banks of rivers, such as Pasig River and San Juan River, to prevent the accumulation of human waste, which adds to the contamination of the waterways.

“Pero ang solusyon ay hindi paglilinis, e. It’s an attitude, it’s a mindset na wag na tayo magtapon [sa maling lugar]. Dapat magkaroon tayo ng disiplina,” Abalos also said. Jelo Ritzhie Mantaring