Locsin on 'piles' of plastic trash in WPS: Just staking our claim

Published June 19, 2021, 9:43 AM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the country was just “staking our claim” after Filipino marine scientists found more “piles” of plastic trash in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Malacañang)

Locsin made the statement after a team of scientists from the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines (UP-MSI) found piles of PET bottles in Pagasa, Patag, and Lawak, floating packaging materials in Sabina and Ayungin, and discarded fishing gear or ghost nets in the different coral reefs.

“Just staking our claim,” he said early Saturday.

According to the UP-MSI, the Predicting Responses Between Ocean Transport and Ecological Connectivity in Threatened Ecosystems in (PROTECT) WPS 2 found a high prevalence of plastic litter in the different ecosystems and islands in the West Philippine Sea.

In a virtual forum last June 10, PROTECT WPS 2 lead scientist Deo Florence Onda said it surprised him to see “lots and lots of plastics” that seem to have just drifted towards the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

The PROTECT WPS is funded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau.

Meanwhile, Locsin recalled how the international community recognized the Philippines as one of the biggest plastic polluters in the world. However, he said he did not take any offense.

“I was introduced in the UN (United Nations) as the ambassador from the third biggest plastic polluter on the planet,” he said.

“I didn’t chafe at the title. We deserve it,” he added.

In 2020, the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment found the Philippines to be the world’s third-biggest polluter after China and Indonesia. The country was reported to be generating 2.7 million metric tonnes of plastic waste each year.

Meanwhile, a peer-reviewed study published this year in the Science Advances journal revealed that the Philippines has contributed to 36 percent of the plastic waste that ended up in the world’s oceans.

The reports showed that of the 10 rivers that contributed to plastic pollution, seven are located in the Philippines. Topping the list was Pasig River with 6.43 percent.

Early this month, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the result of the study was a “badge of dishonor” that should serve as a wake-up call for the government to look into possible “radical” moves to rehabilitate Pasig River.

“I’m hoping that with this badge of dishonor eh baka po maging radikal din ang mga hakbang na gagawin ng ating gobyerno para malinis na once and for all, iyang Pasig River na iyan (the government might resort to radical steps to clean up Pasig River once and for all),” he said.

“Nakakalungkot po iyan (It is saddening), that is not something na we should be proud of. Dati nga po ay mayroon pa tayong komisyon just on Pasig River, pero wala ring nangyari (Before we had a Pasig River rehabilitation commission but nothing happened),” he added.