A civet cat (alamid or musang) was found dead in El Nido after ingesting a piece of discarded "plastic-labo" roll bag often used by "carinderias" for food takeouts. The dead animal was discovered on January 24, 2019. (Photo credit to Be GREEN)

Environmental and wildlife protection advocates in El Nido are calling for the strict implementation of its anti-plastic ordinance, especially on the use of “plastic-labo” roll bags for food takeouts by “carinderias.”

This came after a civet cat was found dead recently within the Lio Tourism Estate reportedly after ingesting a discarded piece of “plastic-labo” roll bag.

Lio sustainability officer Jamie Dichaves said Thursday the animal, more known locally as “alamid” or “musang”, was found by their beach and groundkeepers team on January 24 along one of the exit roads inside Lio.

A photo of the dead animal showed the thin piece of plastic-labo it had swallowed sticking out of its anal opening.

“The civet cat was found along one of the exit roads inside Lio. ‘Yong plastic-labo ‘yong nalunok niya. Usually, ginagamit ng carinderia para sa takeout. Part siya ng plastics ordinance pero may gumagamit pa rin (It had consumed a piece of plastic-labo. Usually, the carinderias use them for takeout. It’s part of the plastic ordinance but they’re still being used),” she said.

Dichaves said the plastics are not from Lio, but since the estate is open to the public, they make their way from outside.

They know this, she said, because they implement “audits of merchant and locator spaces and has an internal negative reinforcement system so they will not use and distribute plastics”.

She explained Lio already has a plastics ban even prior to its opening in 2016, and it covers those beyond what the ordinance specified.

“We also try our best to educate all contractors and operators that come in via the Be GREEN training, and also the guests via posts especially in our Be GREEN page. The hotels that operate in the estate also have signages that discourage guests from bringing and using single-use plastics,” she pointed out.

She said they have tried talking to the food stalls before but the excuse they always get was that owners are just finishing their supplies.

But the ban has been in effect for more than a year in El Nido and their supplies were supposed to have run out, she said.

“Not to discriminate or anything, but we’ve honestly been having issues with those who come, especially to Dalimatan beach to do picnics. Usually, mga locals from all over El Nido. We ask each of them to take everything out and to dispose of them properly pero merong nag-iiwan pa rin o kaya ilalabas tapos pagdating sa road kung saan walang security… ihahagis sa daan,” Dichaves said.

(Usually, it’s the locals from all over El Nido. We ask each of them to take everything out and to dispose of them properly but there are still those who leave them or when they go out and reach the road, they leave them there because there’s no security… they throw them on the road.)

The civet cat’s death is not the only thing that was brought to their attention, Dichaves said. They have also had cases of “pawikan” or green sea turtles suffering from “buoyancy disorder.”

They are called to help every time marine animals get entangled in piles of marine debris since they have the experience.

We’ve had several cases na rin ng buoyancy disorder. Maraming pwedeng causes pero kapag may air build-up, may indigestion. ‘Yong last na nabuksan ko masyadong matigas ‘yong naipit sa loob so hindi na-examine maayos but we attribute pa rin to swallowing something they weren’t supposed to swallow,” she said.

(We’ve had several cases of buoyancy disorder. There can be many causes but if there’s air build-up, there’s indigestion. The last I opened had something very hard inside, I wasn’t able to examine it properly, but we attribute it to swallowing something they weren’t supposed to swallow.)

Dichaves said “enforcement” is the problem, as well as the conduct of regular patrols by the barangays which need to be more frequent and serious in holding violators responsible.

She added there is a task force that monitors the implementation of the year-old anti-plastics law but efforts are not enough.

“Enforcement talaga ang problema. The barangays have to be compelled to also patrol their areas para hindi hirap ang local government unit (LGU). May task force pero kulang pa talaga. We can also add to the plastics ban to cover more items like ‘yong mga balloons, glitters, and other such decors,” she said.

(Enforcement is really the problem. The barangays have to be compelled to also patrol their areas so the LGU won’t have a hard time. There is a task force but efforts are not really enough. We can also add to the plastics ban to cover more items like balloons, glitters, and other such decors.)

El Nido’s Municipal Ordinance No. 004, Series of 2013, bans the use of cellophane and plastic bags as food wrappers or packaging for food takeouts, not even for beverages, ice-making, oil, and the likes.

It also prohibits plastic cups, cutleries, cellophane, drinking straws, and all styrofoam.

Vice Mayor Leonor Corral, in a separate interview Friday, said she is not aware of the civet cat death despite the posting of its photos in the El Nido Plastic Battle page on Facebook on January 25.

Nonetheless, she said the municipal government is doing its best to implement the anti-plastics ordinance as seriously as it could to prevent marine debris and irresponsible land discards from affecting the wild animals.

She clarified that it was passed in 2013 by the previous members of the municipal council but it was only implemented more than a year ago by the administration of Mayor Nieves Rosento.

“Walang naglakas loob noong 2013 na i-implementa ito. Halos isang taon pa lang na istrikto na natin itong pinatutupad, pero based on our monitoring, and since we have a six-month clean-up deadline, malaki na ang waste reduction sa El Nido,” Vice Mayor Corral said.

(Nobody had the confidence to implement this in 2013. It’s just over a year that we started strictly implementing this, but based on our monitoring, and since we have a six-month clean-up deadline, there’s already significant waste reduction.)

She said the carrying out of the ordinance is still in the transition period, but the municipal council and the El Nido leadership are hoping that more significant outcomes in waste reduction will happen as time passes.

Corral said they will review the ordinance and would welcome suggestions to ensure the protection of animal species and their habitat in El Nido.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.