A few days ago, foreign ‘visitors’landed on the pristine shores of Palawan. These ‘visitors’, all of Asian origin, have no visas or even passports but they managed to slip through the island. Luckily, they were immediately rounded up and sacked by volunteers. Authorities said that more of these unwelcomed ‘visitors’ are expected to visit the island soon.
The ‘visitors’are actually trash from other countries that were washed up by the strong current brought by the series of monsoon rains that prevailed in the province recently. The DENR-EMB office of Mimaropa (Region 4-B), the local government unit of El Nido and some NGOs have collected an estimated 140 sacks of garbage that washed up in the islands of El Nido through a joint clean-up operation,.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), El Nido Chamber of Commerce, El Nido Resorts/ Ten Knots Philippines Incorporated (TKPI), El Nido Travel and Tours Association and other private organizations also extended their support by providing motor boats, speed boats and manpower to speed up recovery of floating trash in the island.
Plastic bottles constitute about 70% of the collected marine debris. Others are styrofoam and rubber scraps, bottles, plastic wrappers, nylon and ropes. About 60% to 70% of the plastic bottles retrieved in the clean-up were from neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Japan. The source of the trash were identified through the markings and labels on the bottles.
Ocean trash, especially plastics, is one of the environmental problems that humanity is facing today. Our garbage is coming back to haunt us. According to the Earth Day Network, about 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean annually. Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans.
There are five massive patches of plastic in the oceans around the world. These huge concentrations of plastic debris cover large swaths of the ocean. They are like islands of plastics. The largest of these is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) which is located halfway between Hawaii and California.
The GPGP has an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. The mass of the plastic was estimated to be approximately 80,000 tons, a weight equivalent to that of 500 Jumbo Jets. An estimated 1.8 trillion plastic pieces are floating in the patch, which is equivalent to 250 pieces of debris for every human in the world.
We may have unknowingly contributed to this mind boggling volume of floating trash. Garbage indiscriminately thrown into rivers makes their way into the sea and then get sucked by ocean currents to form garbage patches. Some are washed ashore, becoming unwelcomed visitors like those that landed in El Nido.