EDITORIAL - A way of life

The Philippine Star

With its rich marine biodiversity and more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines has a stake in keeping its coasts clean. After strong typhoons, monsoon rains and thunderstorms, however, the tons of garbage that are washed ashore clearly show that many Filipinos still do not realize the importance of keeping the seas and other bodies of water free of pollution.

Today the nation joins the international community in marking Coastal Cleanup Day. During last year’s observance, 561,895 volunteers around the world collected 16.186 million pounds of trash along 13,360 miles of coastlines. This was just for one day alone.

The top 10 items collected were cigarette butts (2.248 million pounds), food wrappers (1,376 million pounds), plastic beverage bottles and bottle caps, straws and stirrers, plastic bags and grocery bags, glass beverage bottles, beverage cans, small foam pieces, plastic cups and plates.

Also collected were eight bowling balls, 26 barbecue grills, and a total of $1,680 in cash. Entangled in the trash were 22 sharks, skates and rays, 46 sea turtles, 17 corals and sponges, 440 fish and 57 marine mammals.

As recent flash floods have shown, Metro Manila is inundated and crippled after just an hour of heavy rain. The inadequacy of the flood control program is not just the culprit; people are also to blame for indiscriminate garbage disposal, which clogs both man-made and natural drainage systems.

Informal settlers have often been blamed for much of the solid waste in rivers, creeks and coastal waters. But local governments, which shouldn’t have allowed the informal settlements in the first place, can improve garbage collection in impoverished communities. Barangay offices can mobilize communities at the grassroots to cooperate in proper garbage disposal and regular neighborhood cleanups.

Local governments in coastal communities must also do more to improve garbage collection and discourage residents from turning seas into their personal garbage bin. Coastal communities depend on the seas for their livelihood, and they can be made to understand that polluted waters mean dwindling fish catch and regular occurrences of red tide and fishkill. Livelihoods and the nation’s food security are at stake. Keeping the seas and other bodies of water clean must not just be done ceremonially once a year; it must become a way of life.

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