By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu urged the public to cut down on the use of plastics that usually end up in the oceans, and pose a threat to marine life.
He noted that plastic pollution remains as one of the greatest threats to ocean health worldwide as an estimated eight million tons of plastic waste find their way into the oceans every year.
“The task of reversing this issue is as big and wide as the ocean, but small actions can make a huge difference,” Cimatu said.
The DENR chief made the appeal as the nation joined the rest of the world in celebrating the World Wildlife Day 2019, which carries the theme: “Life below water: for people and planet.”
According to Ocean Conservancy, eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year, on top of the 150 million tons of plastic that already circulate in the ocean, contributing to loss of species and contamination of food chain.
Based on the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup report, cigarette butts, plastic bottles and caps, straws and stirrers, among other kinds of plastic bags, were some of the top items found.
The report also indicated that such wastes could harm one million seabirds, 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish annually due to ingestion and entanglement.
Also citing a United Nations report, Cimatu said the Philippines is one of top five contributors of plastic waste in the world’s oceans, accounting for about half of the total plastic leakage.
“We produce 2.7 metric tons of plastic waste every year,” Cimatu said.
“Following this trajectory of plastic production and mismanagement, UN reports predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), gave out 44 medals during the 6th Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards to the men and women who defended the “voiceless wildlife species” against illegal collectors and traders.
The awardees consisted of 21 officers from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI); 14 from the Bureau of Customs (BOC); six from the Philippine National Police (PNP); two from the City Government of Cebu; and one from the Department of Agriculture (DA)–Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).
BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said that annually, the DENR “bestows official recognition to partners who have valuable contributions in the enforcement of wildlife laws, rules, and regulations.”
“For the past five years, the DENR has conferred the Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards to at least 365 men and women,” she said.
The WWD 2019 also featured a formal awarding ceremony for the recipients of grants from the United States Agency for International Development or USAID for graduate students pursuing further studies that are aligned with the project’s research priorities in conserving the biodiversity in the Philippines.