Manila Bay's Mangroves Are Choking with Garbage

A week after the International Coastal Cleanup Day. 

Just a week after International Coastal Cleanup Day, a grisly sight welcomes migratory birds to Manila Bay’s mangrove forest in the Tanza mudflats. Tangled in the roots of the mangroves are heaps of garbage, mostly single-use plastics. 

Diuvs De Jesus, a marine scientist at Oceana, photographed the site on September 25. De Jesus studied B.S. Biology in U.P. Diliman and took up an M.S. degree in Marine Science major in Marine Biology at U.P. Marine Science Institute.

Marine Scientist Diuvs De Jesus Poses in the Mangroves and Mudflats in Manila Bay

Photo by Diuvs De Jesus.

Spending millions for the dolomite beach in the disguise of cleanup when other parts of Manila Bay's mangroves and mudflats are threatened by plastic pollution and reclamation? Development in exchange for destroying our ecosystems?” De Jesus said.

Photo by Diuvs De Jesus.

Photo by Diuvs De Jesus.

The site is a haven for migratory birds, which could ingest small plastics and die. Plastics that are carried to the sea will likely choke thousands of marine animals.

Photo by Diuvs De Jesus.
Photo by Diuvs De Jesus.

These mudflats of Navotas are almost filled now with filling materials for reclamation. This haven for migratory birds will soon be buildings,” said De Jesus. 

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In an interview with Esquire Philippines, De Jesus says it is not enough to clean up the bay. 

“To prevent it?  We really need serious waste management. The site is filled with single-use plastics. Imagine if we are banning single-use plastics, that would greatly reduce solid waste,” said De Jesus. 

According to the marine scientist, the accumulated waste in the mangrove forest was likely carried there by the river or washed ashore from the sea. There is also a landfill beside the site that could also be the source of the garbage. 

Photo by Diuvs De Jesus.

Photo by Diuvs De Jesus.

Cleaning the oceans is really about cleaning what's on land. 

In June, marine conservation group Oceana, along with citizens stakeholders moved to sue the national waste manager in the Philippines.

The group took the first step as a prelude to legal action to press the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) and concerned government agencies to do their job and implement Republic Act 9003 to address the “ballooning problem of marine plastic pollution, specifically single-use plastic.”

Single-day coastal cleanups are good, but not sustainable and do not truly solve the problem of pollution. Cleaning up the oceans is more about cleaning up what’s on land, and the Philippines is nowhere near achieving competent and serious solid waste management. 

Anna Varona, CEO and founder of Clean Our Oceans Project, tells Esquire Philippines, "International Coastal Cleanup serves as a testament to how much damage humans can do to the planet with their consumer behavior.

"If we want to stop pollution, we need to nip it in the bud. We start from our homes and workplaces. We start with ourselves. We have to take a good hard look at our lifestyle, what do we buy, do we really need it, can we choose in favor of the environment? When we do that and recycle, we will not need to throw anything as waste. We will stop killing the ecosystems that keep us and the future alive."

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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