The all-women group JCI Puerto Princesa Peacock, Inc. (Peacock Jaycees) recently joined the SCUBAsurero and other civic organizations in taking action to create change for the ocean on Purok Green Island, Barangay Tumarbong in Roxas municipality.
Peacock Jaycees president Maria Claribelle “Mabelle” Castro said the coastal and underwater cleanup in Roxas is part of the JCI Philippines’ environmental campaign “Think Green”, which aims to help address environmental issues in the country.
Castro said the coastal and underwater water cleanup on Green Island is the first of four Think Green initiatives they are set to implement this year.
“The Peacock Jaycees is going directly to the communities to make them more aware of the amount of trash that they are generating, how they can reduce them, and how it affects their livelihood. On Green Island, for example, most residents are from fishing families, so we need them to understand how their trash affects the sea, and eventually their source of income. We need to show them how everything is interconnected and what they can do to help. Only when the community is directly involved can any environmental conservation be successful because, at the end of the day, they are the ones left to take care of their environment,” she said.
Castro said the cleanup activity was just for a day. However, it is crucial in making the Green Island community committed to keeping its coast and waters clean in order for the effort not to be futile.
The activity on Green Island, which has a marine protected area (MPA) was a partnership project among SCUBAsurero Palawan, the Philippine Institute of Environment Planners (PIEP), the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), and the municipal government of Roxas.
SCUBAsurero Palawan coordinator Cherry Jalover-Par said in a released statement that the coastal and underwater cleanup in Roxas town is a project to raise the awareness of residents of Green Island on the importance of protecting their marine environment.
“We were tapped by Mayor Angela Sabando to help out the island community in doing a cleanup activity. She said the community can do coastal cleanups, but they don’t have the capacity to collect trash underwater, so that’s where we came in,” said Par.
The day-long coastal and underwater cleanup drive yielded 241 kilos of plastic trash, mostly sachets, food wrappers, bottles, and fishnets.
These waste materials, she said, particularly pose harm to marine animals through ingestion and entanglement, the statement said.
Information, education, and communication (IEC) campaign tackling the social and environmental impacts of patronizing products in plastic packaging and discouraging improper waste disposal were also done on the island with the locals in attendance.
Peacock Jaycees handled the event’s IEC component alongside the PCSDS, which highlighted the need for the Green Island community to keep its sea plastics-free.
The statement said the event also saw the participation of 26 Palaweño and non-Palaweño environment planners, who attended a recently concluded national PIEP gathering in Puerto Princesa City.
PIEP Palawan chapter president Cris Enon Jr. said in the statement that “letting the environment planners see the marine life up close and personal would inspire them to protect it through sustainable coastal development planning.”
“By immersing them in sustainable coastal development programs like this, we hope they’ll learn more about marine life and the challenges it faces, and eventually incorporate those insights when they do marine environment planning back in their respective offices,” Enon was quoted in saying.
The PIEP provincial president emphasized that environment planners play an important role in maintaining and improving the quality of the marine ecosystems through a sound environment.
“Marine environment is like a basin that catches everything from the upland environment. Everything is interconnected; whatever are the activities on the ridge areas impact the reef areas,” Enon added.
Enon said, “sound planning ensures the protection and conservation of the marine environment because it puts proper activities on proper zones, thereby minimizing the pollution that goes into the lower level ecosystems.”
The said activity was in relation to the celebration of the World Wildlife Day last March 3, which had the theme “Life below water: for people and planet”. The theme was aligned with Goal No. 14 of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.
SCUBAsurero is one of the projects of the Palawan Youth Sustainable Environment Advocates (PYSEA), a growing youth organization that aims to protect the seas and mountains through cleanup drives and environmental awareness campaigns.
PYSEA’s SCUBAsurero-Palawan has been regularly conducting coastal, mangrove, and underwater cleanups since 2017, and has grown from 12 to over 20 volunteers.