ICC 2013: Saving the seas one step at a time

As part of Emerson Climate GSC Manila’s 10th year anniversary celebration, the management pledged to conduct a series of community services and outreach programs as a way of “giving back to the community.” Each team was then asked to submit an activity proposal indicating their objectives and preferred beneficiaries. Since I have anticipated a lot of proposals to be in the form activities that would only benefit a single group or community, I opted for an environmental awareness activity that would eventually benefit a much wider scope of people and even the generations to come.

2013 ICC Tarp template copy (1)And this is where I discovered the ICC Philippines and their annual International Coastal Cleanup Day.

As a primer, the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean’s health. Its mission is to help clean the seas, lakes, and waterways, and to raise awareness on the growing marine debris problem. Aside from cleaning up shorelines and waterways, ICC also collects debris information that helped inform and inspire policies to prevent ocean trash. For years now, the Philippines  has been actively participating in ICC day, headed by the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary Group and the DENR.

There were two available sites in Metro Manila for cleanup this year – Baywalk, Roxas Blvd. and the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) in Paranaque. Our group chose to sign up for the LPPCHEA cleanup, mainly because of its flat shoreline and the promise of migratory birds sighting. I guess it was a good decision as most of the organizers and sponsors have chosen LPPCHEA as well, making the logistic works a lot more easier.

The event almost did not push through as super typhoon Odette entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility, bringing week-long rains and threatening to landfall on the ICC day itself.  Being  the focal person for our group, I spent the night worrying myself to sleep by thinking about the overall expense it would cost the company if the coastal cleanup gets postponed the last minute. I am quite unsure if Mother Nature heard my pleas but the weather did get a lot better the next morning – with just occasional drizzle that lasted for a couple of seconds as compared to the heavy thunderstorms that poured the night before.

Our group had fun participating in the coastal cleanup despite the minor shortcomings we had that day. I was actually surprised at the number of my colleagues who would prefer going down and dirty in picking up the shoreline debris instead of simply jotting down notes or taking photos. We had to stop at around 10AM due to rising waters and by then, we have already filled up 69 sacks of various trash after working on a 600-meter area.

The ICC Day was a great experience, and definitely an eye-opener. The amount of trash on such a small area is unbelievable; we even joked around that  simply picking them up is futile work and a massive backhoe should be used instead. While most people can easily point fingers to coastal dwellers as the main pollutants, people must also realize that most of the trash in the area are probably irresponsibly dumped debris carried to Manila Bay by rainwater floods from the cities.

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*Photos courtesy of my Emerson colleagues – Nad, Deim, and Bevs.

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