Bay garbage yields litterbugs’ fav snacksBy Fe Zamora, Jodee Agoncillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Empty packets of the two food items made up much of the debris collected during the recent Servathon 2012 annual cleanup conducted by 1,230 volunteers along the shores of Freedom Island, an ecological reserve and marine sanctuary off the coasts of Parañaque and Las Piñas.
“I’ve never seen so many wrappers of Boy Bawang,” said Junie del Mundo, president of Hands On Manila and chair of Servathon 2012, referring to the popular snack of corn kernel fried in garlic.
Television actor-host Marc Nelson, a regular volunteer with Hands On Manila, expressed shock at the amount of discarded plastics found on Freedom Island.
“I hope people realize the adverse effects of throwing away plastics. We should be more careful,” he said.
Volunteers from 21 firms
Volunteers from 21 corporations, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) from the Inquirer Group, collected some 5,000 kilograms of garbage—roughly equivalent to the weight of five cars—consisting mostly of plastic foam, plastic, assorted footwear, toothpaste tubes, shampoo sachets and palm-size foil packets of assorted instant food and drinks, like coffee, cereal oats and chocolate.
Remarkably absent from the mounds of garbage was Tetra Pak, the waterproof packaging material for food products like fruit juices that used to pose a big problem for waste management authorities, until a nongovernmental organization started recycling the material into handbags.
Now in its 7th year, the Servathon of the Hands On Manila Foundation asks volunteers to render a full day of community service in various projects that seek to deal with critical social, educational and environmental problems in the Metro Manila area. Last year, for instance, Inquirer volunteers were assigned to repaint the walls and ceiling of a halfway home for runaway girls in Pandacan, Manila.
This year’s edition chose to focus on cleaning up the shoreline of Freedom Island on Manila Bay, officially known as the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), that several concerned groups say is threatened by a planned reclamation project of the government.
Save Freedom Island
The Save Freedom Island Movement, which cosponsored the event, is opposing a plan by the national government and the local governments of Las Piñas and Parañaque to reclaim 635 hectares of sea in front of the island.
Roy Velez, chair of the Save Freedom Island Movement, said the project’s proponents are aiming to build an entertainment center, port, a business park, roads and universities similar to the Mall of Asia Complex on the reclaimed land.
Velez warned that the reclamation would lead to more floods as Freedom Island’s shoreline municipalities (eight barangays in Parañaque and the 14 barangays in Las Piñas) are considered “low-lying ground.”
“If the island is reclaimed, the flow of the two rivers of Parañaque and Las Piñas, which are major tributaries, will be impeded, resulting in worse flooding in the two cities,” he said.
Various environmental groups under the Save Freedom Island Movement said the project would destroy Freedom Island, which constitutes the last remaining wetlands of mangroves and salt marshes in Metro Manila that serve as a sanctuary for more than 80 bird species and valuable marine creatures.
They said the reclamation also threatens the well-being of fishermen and vendors who depend on the waters of Manila Bay for their livelihood, as well as the homes of families living on the waterways of Parañaque who will end up being evicted.
The companies that participated in Servathon 2012 included BPI Foundation, Cibo, Converge Asia Inc., EON, Far Eastern University, Forum K of Entrepreneurs Organization, HSBC, JP Morgan, LBC Foundation, Megaworld Foundation Inc., One Meralco Foundation, Ortigas & Company, Pancake House, PDI, Philippine Transmarine Carriers Inc., Rockwell Land Corp., Romulo Law Offices, Senate of the Philippines, Thomson Reuters, True Value and Wells Fargo.
Hands on Manila is in partnership with the Save Freedom Island Movement, Earth Island Institute Phil. and the Metro Manila unit of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.