THE Republic of Korea (ROK/South Korea) has provided $9 million in aid to the Philippines and Timor-Leste to fight marine plastics pollution in the said countries.
The six-year “Reducing Marine Plastics in the East Asian Seas Region” initiative aims to improve the management of marine plastics in two countries through science-based governance, innovative solutions to promote circular economy, regular beach monitoring on marine plastics, relevant training, and community awareness drive.
Locally, the project will be implemented in the six coastal communities of the municipalities of Bulan (Sorsogon) and Daanbantayan (Cebu), and the cities of Calbayog (Samar), Dipolog (Zamboanga del Norte), Puerto Princesa (Palawan), and Tandag (Surigao del Sur).
East Asia is considered an ecologically important region, being home to one-third of the planet’s coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grass beds. But it is also a hotspot for marine pollution, including plastics. The Philippines is considered as one of the top five contributors to marine plastic pollution globally, while Timor-Leste is facing challenges in managing its wastes and plastics due to poor infrastructure and challenging geography.
In 2019, Asean adopted the “Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris” in the region, and the “Framework of Action on Marine Debris,” which aims to reduce marine debris in the region by 75 percent in 2025.
ROK has been pushing for curbing marine plastics pollution. Its “Third Basic Plan” in 2021 was created to lower marine plastic waste generation by 60 percent in 2030, and an ambitious zero waste by 2050 through the life-cycle management system that involves marine debris generation, collection, treatment, and recycling.
“Through this project, we hope to…enhance the capacities for combating marine debris and plastic pollution in the Philippines and Timor-Leste, with [ways] to share experiences and best practices on ROK’s marine plastic wastes management policies and recycling technologies,” said Ryu Sun-hyung, who is ROK’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF)-Marine Conservation Division director.
The MOF collaborates with the Partnerships in Environmental Management for Seas of East Asia or PEMSEA—a regional coordinating mechanism for the sustainable development of coastal and marine resources in the region, to implement the project.
“These pro-active local, national and regional actions to combat plastics are happening globally, with governments placing significant importance on the issue,” remarked Aimee Gonzales, who is PEMSEA’s executive director. “Negotiations to establish a global treaty to manage plastics are ongoing.”
For Gonzales, such actions are crucial: If marine plastic pollution remains unaddressed by 2050, there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans.
The project is also collaborating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and its relevant bureaus, as well as Timor-Leste’s State of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries secretary.
Image credits: PEMSEA/John Castillo