By Sahlie P. Lacson

The U.S. government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), recently awarded two new grants to reduce plastic pollution in the Philippine oceans. The signing ceremony, lead by USAID’s Municipal Waste Recyling Program (MWRP) Project Manager Bryan Winston and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, was held last month at the Bulwagang Ninoy Aquino of the DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau in Quezon City.

This year’s grantees are local organizations EcoWaste Coalition and Mother Earth Foundation who will implement the R20 million grants to promote and expand community-based recycling programs, improve solid waste management, and support research on plastic waste around Manila Bay.

Taking into consideration the hazards brought about by the wastes into the marine ecosystems and human health as it makes its way into the global human food supply, mostly through fish products, USAID launched the MWRP in 2016 to support the solid waste management and water recycling efforts by local and national governments, civil society organizations, and academic institutions in partner countries, which include the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

“These partnerships are critical to protecting the urban coastal areas that rely on tourism and fisheries sectors,” U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission John Law said during the program. “We are proud to work together with the Philippines in finding innovative solutions to keeping plastic waste out of our oceans.”

With the proposal of scaling up the existing initiatives being done in restoring Manila Bay to its former glory as espoused by President Rodrigo Duterte early this year, and which also resulted into signing Administrative Order No. 16 which calls for the creation of “Manila Bay Task Force”, the two grantee organizations were selected as they vow to support the faster rehabilitation and restoration of the coastal and marine ecosystem of the Manila Bay.

Believing in Zero Waste or “Walang Aksaya” as the synergy of principles, culture, beliefs, systems, methods, and technologies that aims to eliminate wasting and ensure full and beneficial use of resources to restore ecological balance and provide for the needs of all creation, the two local grantees have already started off with their campaigns on sustainable consumption and lifestyle among communities; they are also very active in raising public awareness and alertness on chemicals in products, wastes and surroundings that can jeopardize human and environmental health.

They have likewise launched waste assessment and brand audits as part of their services; they also conduct ESWM (Ecological Solid Waste Management) training among communities; the operation and construction of materials recovery facility; campaigns on community information and education; and implements waste collection system, among many others.

Although many organizations have followed suit to make a call for a Zero Waste Philippines, the two local organizations have been at the forefront in initiating a multitude of programs in order to reduce land-based sources of marine plastic pollution. (Photo by Regie D. Mason)

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2019 issue.