The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) called on the public to properly dispose “coronavirus wastes” such as single-use face masks and gloves which have become a new form of pollution threatening marine life and ecosystems.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu made the call on Friday in time with this year’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), a global campaign to protect the ocean and its inhabitants, to be observed in the country on Saturday, Sept. 9.
“The minimal disturbance in our oceans due to reduced water activities has led to a resurgence of marine animals. However, we are threatening their existence again with our medical wastes—their new nemesis,” Cimatu pointed out.
According to Cimatu, the Philippines will join the ICC Day but with some major adjustments such as fewer volunteers, mostly government employees, due to safety concerns amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The DENR will lead a cleanup activity on the coast of Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard to mark the local observance of the event but unlike previous years, Cimatu said there will be no large gatherings at the traditional sites on shores and creeks across the country.
Instead, Cimatu encouraged volunteers 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,” he emphasized.
After the cleanup, the DENR chief 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.
Aside from the coastal cleanup, the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) will also conduct webinars and a virtual mini-concert to engage the public in celebrating the ICC Day even at home.
“Fittingly, this year’s celebration follows the theme, ‘Safe Oceans Start at Home’ which will still support and promote the protection and conservation of the oceans but within the safety of our homes,” DENR Officer-in-Charge Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent BMB Director Ricardo Calderon said.
The webinar, to be hosted by the BMB’s Coastal and Marine Division, will feature CleanSeas Pilipinas and Planet CORA (Communities Organized for Resource Allocation), while the mini-concert will be live-streamed on its official Facebook page.
ICC is the world’s largest, volunteer effort to clean up the marine environment every year wherein volunteers from over a hundred countries descend on local beaches, rivers, lakes, and canals to show their commitment to cleaner waterways.
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 various areas in the country.