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Protect the environment – ‘Tayo ang Kalikasan’

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched this week in Mindanao its “Tayo ang Kalikasan” (We are Nature) movement aimed at mobilizing citizen support for environmental protection and responsible use of the country’s natural resources.
The national movement was launched in April in Laoag City, in Northern Luzon, after the annual Earth Day celebration in which participants combed beaches and had a record haul of debris, mostly plastics. Soon afterwards, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu spoke in Antique where he urged local officials and citizen groups to help clean up the rivers of the province and the rest of the region.

This week, the secretary spoke in General Santos City in Soccsksargen, where he urged the people of Mindanao to help save Saranggani Bay from further environmental degradation. He focused on plastics. “We can prevent more plastic from reaching the seas and mountains by segregating our waste properly, reducing the usage of plastics by relying on reusable containers for recycling,” he said.

The effort to reduce reliance on plastics is now a worldwide movement in the wake of findings that eight million tons of plastics are dumped into the earth’s oceans and seas every year – 250 kilos every second. Plastic materials of all kinds have been found in the stomachs of fish, turtles, and other sea animals.

This year the focus is on single-use plastic straws, which restaurants and fast-food giants around the world dispense by the millions. These will soon be banned by the British government and the European Union. India will ban all single-use plastics by 2022. They will be replaced by alternatives like pasta and bamboo sticks. Biodegradable plastics are also being developed from fossil fuels or crops like potatoes and corn.

We should take pride that we have our own little contribution in the Philippines to this worldwide movement. At an international contest in Hong Kong for science projects, two students of the Angeles Science High School in Pampanga won first prize in the international division for their project “Verde: An Edible Alternative to Plastic Cutlery.”

The use of plastics is still widespread in our country, as plastic bags, wrappers, appliances, building materials, utensils, toys, and yes, straws in fast-food eateries, have become so common in our daily life. But plastic wastes have accumulated in our landfills as well as in the seas around us, becoming a danger to life in the oceans and a threat to the environment.

Each of us can make a contribution to the movement by choosing, whenever the opportunity presents itself, to use natural biodegradable bags, wrappers, stirrers, etc., instead of plastic ones.