Civic groups on Saturday, March 16, conducted a coastal and underwater cleanup in Roxas town to raise public awareness and urge local communities to act on the trash problem that harms marine life.
Scubasurero-Palawan, Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners and Junior Chamber International (JCI) Puerto Princesa Peacock partnered with the Roxas municipal government and Philippine Coast Guard to conduct the said activity on Green Island that faces a marine protected area.
“We we’re tapped by Mayor Angela Sabando to help out the island community in doing a cleanup activity. She said the community can do coastal cleanups but they don’t have the capacity to collect trash underwater, so that’s where we came in,” said Scubasurero-Palawan coordinator Cherry Jalover-Par.
The daylong coastal and underwater cleanup drive yielded 241 kilos of plastic trash, mostly sachets, food wrappers, bottles, and fish nets, among others. These marine debris particularly pose harm to marine animals through ingestion and entanglement.
“Trash in the water impacts the world on many levels, not only within the life below water but also the life on land, by harming wildlife, affecting human health, and impacting the livelihood of our fishers. It also causes economic damage by affecting our tourism for instance, especially that we are known as the World’s Best Island,” said She Roa, Scubasurero-Palawan coordinator and JCI Peacock Ridge to Reef project chair.
An information, education, and communication (IEC) campaign tackling the social and environmental impacts of patronizing products in plastic packaging, and discouraging improper plastic waste disposal was also organized on the island with locals in attendance.
JCI Peacock President Mabelle Castro, whose all-women group handled the event’s IEC component alongside the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff, underscored the need to engage and empower the local communities to keep the seas plastic-free.
“In doing coastal and underwater cleanup activities, awareness and engagement of the community is very important because at the end of the day, they are the ones who will be left in the area,” Castro said.
“The cleanup activity is just for a day but what is more crucial is what the community will learn and what they will do after the cleanup. If the community is not committed in keeping the coast and waters clean, any cleanup efforts will be futile,” the JCI Peacock president added.
The event also saw the participation of 26 Palaweño and non-Palaweño environmental planners who attended a recently concluded national PIEP gathering in Puerto Princesa City. This was the first outreach activity the PIEP Palawan hosted.
PIEP Palawan chapter President Cris Enon Jr. said letting the environmental planners see the marine life up close and personal would inspire them to protect it through sustainable coastal development planning.
“By immersing them in sustainable coastal development programs like this, we hope they’ll learn more about marine life and the challenges it faces, and eventually incorporate those insights when they do marine environment planning back in their respective offices,” Enon said.
The PIEP Palawan chapter president emphasized that environmental planners play an important role in maintaining and improving the quality of the marine ecosystems through sound environment planning.
“Marine environment is like a basin that catches everything from the upland environment. Everything is interconnected: Whatever activities in the ridge areas impact the reef areas,” Enon said.
He said the marine environment isn’t spared from a myriad of challenges, including marine debris, but environmental planners could help turn the tide by “seeing the whole picture” and “integrating local and national laws into the management of a certain area.”
“Sound environmental planning ensures the protection and conservation of marine environment because it puts the proper activities on proper zones, thereby minimizing the pollution that goes into the lower level ecosystems,” he added.
The said activity was in relation to the celebration of the World Wildlife Day last March 3 with the theme “Life below water: for people and planet,” which aligned with goal 14 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
“We need more determined hands to attain our goal of conserving our marine ecosystem, parallel with the life below water goal of UN SDGs. We need help in this challenge for this requires bold initiatives and strategies on how to address the issues on sources of trash that damages the ocean,” Roa said.
Scubasurero-Palawan is one of the projects of the Palawan Youth Sustainable Environment Advocates (PYSEA), a growing youth organization in Palawan that aims to protect our seas and mountains through cleanup drives and environmental awareness campaigns.
Funded by the Palawan Pawnshop’s Palawan Express Marathon, PYSEA’s Scubasurero-Palawan has been regularly conducting coastal, mangrove, and underwater cleanups since 2017, and has grown from 12 to over 20 volunteers. The group plans to collaborate with more local government units and civic organizations in Palawan to simultaneously undertake the same activity.
“It is our goal to conduct more cleanup dives and education campaigns, involve more organisations, and reach out more people especially the young ones. We are inviting more volunteers and government and non-government organizations who are eager to do the same. Let’s dive, clean and learn together towards a common goal of sustaining the vast marine biodiversity of Palawan,” Roa added.