DENR leads massive coastal cleanup nationwide

TAKING the lead in International Coastal Cleanup Day celebrations, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) forges partnership with local government units (LGUs) and civil-society organizations to conduct nationwide coastal clean up activities.

An archipelago composed of over 7,500 islands and islets, the Philippines is a major exporter of fish.

Waste pollution, however, continues to threaten the country’s municipal fishing grounds, adversely affecting fish-production capacity and the source of income and livelihood of more than half of the country’s 100 million
population.

The National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) said around 20 percent to 30 percent of the garbage produced everyday end up either in vacant lots, or worse, clog canals, rivers, creeks, rivers and end up in bodies of water like Laguna de Bay or Manila Bay.

NSWMC Secretariat Executive Director Eleazar Ildelfonso said the problem is caused by the poor implementation of the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 by concerned LGUs, particularly proper waste segregation, composting and recycling and poor collection system aggravated by the lack of enough engineered sanitary landfill for plastics and other residual wastes.

The DENR, led by Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, is batting for sustained coastal-cleanup activities,  underscoring the importance of protecting the country’s coastal environment against garbage and other causes of pollution.

Cimatu is pushing for the full implementation of existing environmental laws, including laws on clean air, clean water and solid-waste management.

In a statement, as an initial collaboration of non-governmental organizations and people organizations that coalesced into a movement called Tayo Ang Kalikasan, the group participated in the International Coastal Cleanup Day celebration in Zambales for one of the largest volunteer efforts for the ocean’s health.  The cleanup covered the whole Zambales coastline from Subic to Santa Cruz.

Zambales Gov. Amor D. Deloso led the government local executives in the kick-off ceremony at the coastal town of San Narciso for the volunteer cleanup drive covering over 100 kilometers of coastal areas in the province.

Cimatu earlier called on public support in an effort to ensure the programs of the DENR trickle down to the grassroots level.

The DENR, under the Program for Environment and Natural Resources for Restoration, Rehabilitation and Development, included in its priority projects the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, Pasig River and Laguna Lake.

Now on its 32nd year, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, is held every third Saturday of September as people around the world gather on beaches, coasts, rivers, waterways and underwater dive sites to remove trash and record information on the debris collected.

Results aim to instill awareness and educate the public on better waste-management policies and plans.

The Philippines joined the annual global celebration of International Coastal Cleanup Day with the theme, “Together for our Ocean”.

Meanwhile, member-organizations under the #breakfreefromplastic global movement started a 10-day coastal-cleanup activities in Manila Bay, particularly the Freedom Island (Las Piñas Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.

An estimated 200 participants started conducting a massive cleanup of this stretch since last Monday with the aim of pushing for greater accountability for corporations who are mainly responsible for single-use plastics ending up in oceans, roads and waterways.

“Through the series of beach-cleanup activities on Freedom Island and in other parts of the world, we hope to highlight the role of corporations responsible for the manufacture, distribution and proliferation of low-value, nonrecyclable packaging and the single-use, disposable plastic products that often end up on the beaches and in the oceans.  Whether they like it or not, the companies and brands associated with these products already being associated with plastic pollution,” Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the #breakfreefromplastic movement said in statement.

Fishing communities who live near and around Freedom Island also report that their fishing livelihoods have been dramatically impacted by plastic pollution. Sonny Malubag, once a fisherman and now a director of a local cooperative in the area, decries how plastic pollution has hurt their fishing livelihoods.

“I have been a fisherman since 1992. Back then, the garbage problem in our seas was not yet rampant. Now, whenever fishermen cast their nets in Manila Bay, more than half of what they catch are plastic cutleries and wrappers,” he said.

In the past years, coastal cleanups have been organized in various scales in different parts of the world. However, the problem keeps getting worse, according to the group.

“This shows that cleanups alone do not solve the problem,” said Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation.

“To solve the problem, we need to work at the source. Households, offices, schools, businesses—all of us who generate waste—must first minimize our waste, segregate whatever waste is produced, then recycle, compost or carefully manage that waste. Managing our organic waste and reusing and recycling materials drastically reduce the volume of waste that the barangay or city needs to manage, thus curbing the volume of waste, especially plastic waste, ending up in our waterways,” she added.

Aside from coastal clean-up and waste and brand audit activities in the Philippines, various organizations under the #breakfreefromplastic global movement are also conducting a series of coastal-cleanup activities in Europe and North America.

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