-, April 2, 2016
There is bad news for the environment and for fishermen. And all of us had better participate in meeting a hazard that in fact exempts no one. It might sound inconsequential but it is not. It is a monster whose lethal growth will soon overwhelm the unprepared. I speak specifically of the plastic in our garbage.

Has anybody from among the Calbayog City authorities, from among our more prominent civic organizations and supposedly concerned community leaders ever heard of the dire warning from the World Economic Forum that there will be more plastic garbage than fish floating in our seas within the foreseeable future? This is not to be taken lightly.

Because of the uncontrolled use and improper disposal of plastics (bags and packaging materials, mostly) it is estimated that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic flotsam and jetsam in our seas than there will be fish, not to mention in our waste dumpsites and in neglected nooks. The truth is that the very life at sea is today already aggravated by the menace of plastic.

Are our brethren who live by the beneficence of the seas aware of this? Fisherfolks’ source of livelihood is under attack. They cannot remain ignorant and idle in regard to their environment. A cursory look in the spaces about us (the side walks, the canals, the rivers and the beaches) will confirm the abundance of the ever present bits and pieces of discarded plastic materials, improperly thrown, mishandled and uncollected. They lie there and everywhere. But will never die!

The use of plastic for wrapping, packaging and for many other domestic purposes has increased by at least 20 times during last fifty years and threaten to double in another generation. This is a worldwide forecast which means, it could be worse in the Philippines because we are notorious for our utter carelessness in matters of sanitation and garbage disposal. This has to be corrected and a mindset developed from childhood when every child’s mind is still in the formative stage. This means, now!

This foreseeable disaster is a formidable danger not only to the environment but to the fishermen’s livelihood itself. Each individual citizen can participate simply by being conscious of what we dispose of as garbage. Plastic materials are the most notorious because these do not rot, do not decompose and remain in its unaltered condition for over a hundred years. And these just keep on growing. It is estimated that at least 8 million tons of plastic garbage end up in the seas to join the 165 millions of tons that have already degraded the quality of sealife!

On the governance level, if it has not yet been mulled over and discussed, it is time for the subject to be prominent in the City Council’s Agenda. Environmental awareness, specifically targeting plastic, must be inculcated upon young minds in the classroom. And as well, upon the general public on the street level of every barangay. This is a government responsibility.

One example comes to mind. For starters, a very simple decision and action would be worth the trying: the incremental banning of the use of plastic bags by retail stores, combined with promoting re-usable, multi-utility shopping bags (bayo-ong) made of natural fibers, cloth and/or recyclable bio-degradable material, for sale at every store. Or given away as promotional materials. This could even spawn a new source of income generating cottage level livelihood. (Many LGUs the world over even have ordinances prohibiting the use of plastic bags by retail stores.) The bags may even have promotional prints of products or services of sponsoring entities. Resistance to change is always a hassle but only in the beginning, until shunning the use of plastic bags becomes second nature to us all.

In support of and/or promoting citizen action, priestly exhortations and reminders during sacramental services will definitely prove to be effective considering the natural piety predominant among parishioners. Besides, if indeed “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” who else are best positioned to be the vanguards of healthful environment and sanitation in our communities?

Clean City Hall premises and clean Churchyards can jumpstart community sanitation! Let us be done with plastic!

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