The surface of our tiny, blue dot in the vast universe is made up of about 70 percent water. Water is crucial for the sustenance of all living things on the planet, most obvious perhaps with that of marine life. While we humans are naturally surface-dwellers, modern day heroes scout the life aquatic by virtue of a profound purpose: the care and protection of our common home.
In celebration of Earth Day, employees of Aboitiz Power Corporation (AboitizPower) in different parts of the country dedicated their time and the best of their abilities in making a better and cleaner Earth for all humans and animals.
The Balili River Clean-up
AboitizPower employees and community members from La Trinidad, Benguet team up for the Balili River Clean-up.
In northern Luzon, AboitizPower renewable energy subsidiary Hedcor, Inc. acted on their environmental protection goals with the collection of almost 246 kilograms of waste in its Balili River Clean-up Drive last March 24, a joint project with the Municipality of La Trinidad, Benguet.
The Balili River became infamous when it was pronounced biologically dead in 2004 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). According to accounts of local old-timers, the river used to be so pristine that fishes thrived in it abundantly. An indigenous people’s mandatory representative from Barangay Balili even recalls washing her white school uniform in the river in the 1960s.
“The river used to be clean and unpolluted,” a local shared. The state of the river gradually deteriorated when establishments and settlers in La Trinidad grew exponentially.
This inspired the personnel of Hedcor to support the Balili River Clean-up.
“At Hedcor, we are taking concrete steps to further environmental sustainability for future generations," said Hedcor official Jay Kabamalan. "Hedcor recognizes that the health of the environment is vital to the well-being of local communities. As such, Hedcor aims to create a culture of environmental stewardship and encourage people to take responsibility for their surroundings."
Hedcor’s efforts were conducted in partnership with the local Municipal Environment Natural Resources Office (MENRO) and the Benguet State University (BSU). Hedcor also supports Barangay Balili’s local ordinance mandating its officials and residents to conduct a clean-up drive every first Saturday of the month. To date, Hedcor has collected over two million kilograms of waste, all of which were properly disposed.
Scubasureros carefully remove garbage and other debris from corals.
On land, volunteers from TVI, TSI, and the local community work together to collect trash.
The “scubasureros” of AboitizPower subsidiary Therma Visayas, Inc. (TVI) conducted a coastal clean-up activity at the Bato Marine Sanctuary in Brgy. Bato, Toledo City in Cebu. The idea behind this environmental project came from TVI employees who are also scuba diving enthusiasts.
"Scubasurero is a portmanteau combining 'scuba diving' and 'basurero' or garbage collector," explained Therma South, Inc. (TSI) Reputation and Stakeholder Management Manager Lou Jason Deligencia. "We conducted this activity as part of our personal advocacy to help protect marine life."
The Bato Marine Sanctuary is a marine-protected area in the host community of TVI, and is home to various fish species, corals and marine creatures. With the increasing upsurge of marine pollution due to plastic and other non-biodegradable waste, the TVI scuba divers saw the need to support the Bato Marine Sanctuary and preserve the area’s marine life through the reduction of solid waste on the sanctuary’s sea bed.
The Scubasurero project is being managed in close coordination with the DENR - Tanon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS), the Toledo City local government through the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), as well as the Toledo City Agriculture Office, Bantay Dagat, and the Philippine Coast Guard. The TSPS is the biggest National Integrated Protected Areas System - Marine Protected Area (NIPAS-MPA) in the Philippines covering 534,589 hectares.
“Scuba divers and free divers from the local community, local fisherfolk and members of the Philippine Coast Guard continue to support us in this endeavor,” said TVI Vice President and Facility Head Noel Cabahug, who also partook in the activity being a scuba diving enthusiast himself.
In total, 280 kilograms of garbage were collected which is composed of 167 kg of residual waste and 113 kg of biodegradable waste.
Nursing endangered sea turtles back to health
Visitors to the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park see a rare and diverse ecosystem which includes a mangrove forest, marine turtle habitat and nesting area, and a fish sanctuary.
A female hawksbill sea turtle rescued by local fisherfolks is brought to the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park to be nursed back to health.
Another AboitizPower subsidiary, Davao Light and Power Co., Inc. (Davao Light), along with Aboitiz Foundation Inc. and in partnership with the DENR Region XI, continues to support the conservation efforts for sea turtles at the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park which is a pawikan rescue center facility.
Out of the seven sea turtle species in the world, three species of pawikan — the olive ridley, the green sea turtle, and the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle — are at the park. The park is a known nesting ground for the hawksbill turtle and has released over 7,000 hatchlings since 2015.
There are currently seven rescued pawikans under the care of the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park. The latest addition is a female hawksbill sea turtle (scientific name Eretmochelys imbricata) that was turned over to the eight-hectare ecological preserve and biodiversity conservation site at Sitio Punta Dumalag, Matina Aplaya, Davao City. The turtle was found caught weakly floating in a fish trap by fisherfolk led by Kagawad Ronel P. Simo in the sea near Purok Libra, Sitio Tambangan, Lasang, Davao City.
In coordination with the DENR Region XI, the endangered reptiles are provided with veterinary care and are being observed at the facility until they are fully recovered and can be released back into the wild.
“Pawikans are known to return faithfully to the same beach where they were born or previously nested,” said Davao Light President and Chief Operating Officer Rodger S. Velasco,. “With the sea turtles coming back and laying eggs through the years, the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park has successfully lived up to its objective of protecting and preserving the area and its flora and fauna, despite daily environmental threats such as pollution and soil erosion.”
The pawikan protection efforts, along with coastal clean-up and tree planting activities conducted frequently at the park, are aligned with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) , which aims to conserve life below water.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), sea turtles help maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs. The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles live on coral reefs, eating the overgrown sponges that suffocate slow-growing corals, resulting in a healthy reef and also helping to prevent the overpopulation of jellyfishes in the ocean.
The care and protection of the planet, our common home, is a joint human responsibility. Working together and taking responsibility is vital in ensuring a healthy and sustainable future for ourselves, the generations to come, and the animal kingdom.
“This year’s Earth Day theme, ‘Investing in our future,’ highlights the importance of dedicating our time, resources, and energy to the care of our environment,” said AboitizPower President and CEO Emmanuel Rubio. “We are happy that we are afforded with opportunities to help and contribute in leaving a positive impact to its protection.”