A study presented online by Dr. Hernando Bacosa of the WPU College of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences this week had a bold, albeit eyebrow-raising conclusion, which is that 75 percent all of the public beaches around Puerto Princesa City can be classified as either “dirty” or “extremely dirty”, applying an international standard on quantifying the prevalence of plastics waste found in them.

Dr. Bacosa presented the highlights of the study that was conducted under the Blue Communities Philippines project, a European-funded global research initiative on coastal environments.

Bacosa explained that the study essentially involved the setting up a string of transect points along a 153-kilometer stretch of beach on both the Sulu Sea and Western Philippine Sea side of the city. The presence of plastics garbage on the transect quadrants was then quantified and analyzed, forming the conclusion.

An interesting take here is its observation that in the less populated west coast of the city, discarded fishing paraphernalia including nylon fishing lines was the dominant plastics trash while the east coast beaches were dominated by food and consumer items plastics packaging.

The study is relevant because ever since the City Council passed an ordinance in 2019 limiting the use of plastics packaging, there is yet to be full and strict enforcement of that particular policy. While nearly all major retail establishments have already adapted measures discarding single-use plastics, there has not been a strict implementation of the letter of the law, including for instance in the wet markets or in the neighborhood convenience stores.

City planners and policymakers should be interested in a validation of the WPU research, and its official adoption, if only because it can be an important baseline dataset in conducting more rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the city plastics ordinance that is supposed to be already in full swing.

The Philippines, with its vast coastlines, is considered among the top countries that are major sources of marine plastics pollution. A robust local program to ensure the cleanliness of the city beaches will go a long way in helping mitigate this global problem.  It should also do well for the Puerto Princesa City to pursue a proactive policy of recovering its “clean and green” branding that once upon a time it was famous for.