Editorial | Garbage in our seas

WE are proud of the sparkling white beaches, long coastline and idyllic islands featured prominently on our tourism promotion materials and on social media. Sea, surf, snorkel, scuba – the to-do list of what to do in this beautiful country is as diverse as its 7,100 islands.

But the sad fact is, our surfers and divers oftentimes find themselves swimming, cavorting even, with plastics and other garbage floating in our otherwise aqua blue waters. That we contribute to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, this huge floating mass of plastics and other marine debris, is not far-fetched. According to the National Geographic, “about 80 percent of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia. Trash from the coast of North America takes about six years to reach the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, while trash from Japan and other Asian countries takes about a year. The remaining 20% of debris comes from boaters, offshore oil rigs, and large cargo ships that dump or lose debris directly into the water. The majority of this debris—about 705,000 tons—is fishing nets.”

Most of our highly urbanized cities are along coastlines where solid waste management is most challenging. Figures from the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) said the country generates an estimated 36 tons of waste daily, with Metro Manila producing 8,300 tons of waste per day or about three million tons of waste per year.

We do not lack for laws to mitigate the impact of solid waste on the environment. We have adopted a number of laws to protect our stressed environment but these do not seem to work well as people do not seem to grasp the gravity of their actions and their impact to the environment. There are commercial establishments that are becoming more environmentally aware, encouraging consumers to use recyclables or giving incentives to those who do not use plastics on certain days of the week. Still, more efforts need to be done by all sectors, particularly the local governments.

Senate environment committee head Sen. Cynthia Villar is planning to amend Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. The proposed amendment seeks to increase product stewardship among manufacturers nationwide to help minimize pollution from plastic packaging materials of goods. This is reducing plastics at source.

There is an urgency to save the seas, and ultimately the earth. This begins with the awareness that our environment is choking on garbage and that we can do something about it.


Posted in Opinion