THE first day of Oslob Municipal Government’s clean-up of a sandbar and its adjacent areas in Sumilon Island produced something that should no longer surprise environmentalists: two tons of trash. But it did surprise Oslob Mayor Jose Tumulak Jr. who led the week-long activity participated in by more than 200 people. It surely pays to look closely around rather than stay in the comfort of an office.
“Kun daghan pa ang hugaw nga among nakolekta sa mabaw pa lang, wala pa ta kahibawo kun pila pa ang among makuha sa ilawom,” Tumulak said.
What should be interesting in the effort is that it showed that even a small island like Sumilon couldn’t even escape this urban blight, one that many urban centers are dealing with but couldn’t cure. Or one that many local government officials no longer even talk about.
There was a time when local officials did concern themselves with the trash floating on the Mactan Channel, especially in the waters near Cebu City. Like in Oslob now, these officials also launched clean-up drives, including the high-profile ones like the so-called “scubasurero” by scuba divers. Those campaigns collected tons of trash.
But that was years ago. Now local officials merely look away even as floating trash has become a normal sight at the Mactan Channel. The holding of clean-up drives have also become a rare occurrence. Perhaps they can afford to do that because people are also no longer complaining, unlike the tourists who frequent seas near resorts like Boracay, Sumilon and many others.
While we ask other local government units to follow Oslob’s lead and also conduct their own clean-up drives in their coasts, we also ask the Oslob Municipal Government to learn from the lessons of other coastal clean-up drives. Instead of this being a one-and-done activity, it should instead institutionalize this and make this a regular undertaking.
Admittedly, the problem is so big that coastal clean-up drives, even if done regularly, would not be enough. But those activities raise our level of awareness of environmental issues, which in turn prod us to be more engaged in the campaign.