Amount of garbage in PH oceans rising

Pia Ranada

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The numbers disturb as the country gears up for International Coastal Cleanup Day

COASTS OF GARBAGE. Storms carry garbage from the metropolis to coasts like this one

MANILA, Philippines – Though the Philippines boasts a healthy number of volunteers for International Coastal Cleanup Day, the amount of trash found in our seas is rising every year, said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

According to the Washington-based group Ocean Conservancy, the volume of ocean trash recorded by volunteers doubled annually since 2010.

That year, 145,000 volunteers picked up a total of 240,360 kilograms of trash. In 2011, around 114,418 volunteers collected 485,091 kilos. In 2012, 144,000 people retrieved more than 1.3 million kilos.

“The population is increasing so more resources are consumed and more waste is produced,” Save Philippine Seas chief Anna Oposa explained.

“We aren’t moving that much in terms of proper facilities or waste management. We still lack proper materials recovery facilities, landfills, recycling programs and the like,” she said.

And though more Filipinos are now aware of the importance of keeping our oceans clean, “awareness is different from action.”

“For instance, one knows that one of the top marine pollutants is cigarette butts but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll stop smoking or even just throw their cigarette butts properly. If the facilities and programs aren’t there, awareness can only go so far,” she told Rappler.

Onshore, offshore cleanup

International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day has been held every 3rd Saturday of September in different parts of the world since its founding in 1986. This year, it will take place on September 21. On that day, thousands of volunteers will collect garbage from beaches, coasts and underwater ecosystems.

The Philippines has been an active participant since 1994, consistently coming in second place in the most number of volunteers, outranked only by the United States.

More than 500,000 volunteers collected around 4.5 million kilograms of garbage all over the world in the ICC event last year.

This year, DENR and the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary will lead the cleanup of Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard in Manila and the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje would rather see less trash in Philippine oceans than more volunteers.

“We would rather be known as a country where the trash they pick up has lessened significantly, as this would be a good success indicator for our solid waste management programs,” he said in a press statement.

Garbage in bodies of water is more than an aesthetic issue, it’s directly linked to food security, he emphasized.

“We should remember that clean waters and oceans also mean a healthier environment for our coastal and marine resources, which we heavily depend on for food.”

Unhealthy seas choked with trash can affect the livelihood of the more than 1.6 million Filipinos employed in the fisheries sector.  –

Garbage in coast in Manila image from Shutterstock

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at