Wheng Daño vowed to himself on the first day he moved to the picturesque town of El Nido that he would do everything he could to help protect the paradise he now calls home.
Since 2014, he has volunteered to collect ton loads of trash washed up on the shores of the famous Big Lagoon.
Daño and a group of local kayak rental staff members collected 10 sacks worth of debris from the water every morning on a consistent basis. The majority of them were bottles made of plastic.
This reality, faced by many other tourist destinations in the province, inspired the young entrepreneur Xian Sing to provide a remedy for the worsening plastic pollution problem in Palawan.
“Palawan attracts millions of tourists in a year. The Puerto Princesa Underground River alone accommodates more than a thousand of guests every day. Can you imagine the number of trash they leave behind our landfills and worse, our oceans?” Sing pointed out.
Sing’s company, Bee, offers eco-friendly takeout packaging alternatives to local businesses in an effort to reduce the province’s plastic footprint.
According to him, one of the primary factors that contributes to the pollution caused by plastic is the packaging used for takeout food.
Based on World Bank data, the Philippines produce 2.7 million tons of plastic waste in a year. 10% of which goes to the oceans.
Aside from being an eyesore to major tourist destinations,plastics pose a threat to marine life. According to WWF, 52% of the world’s turtles had mistaken a plastic bag for a jellyfish or algae. This can block or rupture sea turtles internal organs or make the unnaturally buoyant growth and reproduction rates.
Bee encourages the use of bagasse cups and containers made of sugar cane pulp that can be broken down into organic matter and then reintroduced to the soil as a nutrient-rich compost, as well as cassava bags, a hot water soluble alternative to plastic bags.
Since the middle of 2022, Bee has prevented approximately 52,555 plastic items from entering landfills and oceans. All over the country, Econest, Bee’s sustainability partner, was able to substitute 5,550,000 pieces of plastic trash based on the actual quantity of sustainable packaging supplied to partners.
In Palawan, both the Maremegmeg Beach Club and the Garlic and Mint Restaurant in El Nido have been champions in promoting environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging.
Bee has also partnered with Balai Princesa & Lilim Café, VietVille Restaurant, Casa Mila Hotel, San J Japanese Restaurant, and 89 Café in Puerto Princesa.
Sing acknowledges that there is still a significant chance that their advocacy will not result in any profound impact. However, he has faith that if they continue to take small steps in the right direction, they will eventually arrive at their desired goal.
“I strongly believe na napakalayo pa natin sa point na magiging visible yung impact ng ginagawa natin. We have a short list of clientele of partners and for sure hindi pa sapat na kami kami lang ang nagtutulungan,” he said.
“So we have a long way to go. We have yet to tap more restaurants, more hotels and stores,” Sing added.
He is looking forward to the new year because it will give him a chance to move the advocacy forward by getting more partners on board. Sing hopes that one day, people who live in El Nido, like Wheng and the other people who work at kayak rental shops, won’t have to pick up trash from the Big Lagoon.