PH to join campaign to protect oceans

Published September 18, 2020, 1:06 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Still receiving backlash for its decision to fill world-known Manila Bay with tons of white sand made from dolomite rock, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is still determined to participate in this year’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), a global campaign to protect the ocean and its inhabitants. 

In a statement, the DENR said the Philippines will still participate in this year’s ICC but with some major adjustments due to safety concerns related to COVID-19.

To mark the local observance of ICC Day today September 19, 2020, the DENR will lead a cleanup activity along the coast of Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard, with fewer volunteers, mostly government employees.

Manila Bay, known globally for being one of the most beautiful sunset spots, is the most polluted coastal water in the Philippines.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that unlike in previous years, there will be no large gatherings at the traditional sites on shorelines and creeks nationwide during the ICC Day 2020.

Instead, he said volunteers are encouraged to conduct safe and socially distant individual or small group cleanups, or through at-home efforts to reduce plastic waste. 

“Our duty to keep our shorelines, rivers and waterways clean does not stop even with the pandemic. It is a task that we should take on every single day,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu emphasized proper disposal of coronavirus wastes, such as single-use face masks and gloves, which have become a new form of pollution threatening marine life and ecosystems.

After the cleanup, Cimatu will proceed to the site of the Manila Bay beach nourishment project to check on the progress of the ongoing operation to fill a 500-meter portion of the bay area with dolomite sand. The project includes desilting and introduction of geo-intervention to prevent the sand from being washed out.

ICC is the world’s largest, volunteer effort to clean up the marine environment. Every year, volunteers from over 100 countries descend on local beaches, rivers, lakes and canals to show their commitment to cleaner waterways. 

The Ocean Conservancy, the world’s largest organization focusing exclusively on the health of the marine environment, has sponsored this annual event for the past 33 years.

For over a decade, the Philippines has had the most number of volunteers in the annual ICC Day around the world. Last year, more than 20,000 Filipino volunteers joined the cleanup in different areas in the country.