Korea raises urgent need to combat marine litter crisis

Korea raises urgent need to combat marine litter crisis
Contributed photo

IN CELEBRATION of Earth Day, the Korean Government’s Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) highlighted the urgent need to address marine plastic pollution, one of the most pressing global environmental challenges.

The call was made during a joint clean-up activity along Manila Bay at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP) led by Country Director KIM Eunsub of Koica, Counselor KWON Soon Hyun of the Korean Embassy, Director Ryder Rodgers of the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and Founder and Executive Director Antoinette Taus of the Communities Organized for Resource Allocation (Cora) on Friday, April 19, 2024.

Contributed photo

More than 60 representatives from these agencies and members of the Philippine Koica Fellow Association (PhilKOFA) participated in the clean-up activity to protect and preserve the wetland park’s delicate ecosystem.

The LPPWP is threatened by marine litter due to its proximity to Metro Manila.

“Today, we've come together as a community and made a small yet impactful difference in protecting our environment. Each piece of litter we collected represents a step towards cleaner waters and healthier ecosystems. Koica is committed to support the country’s environmental efforts and has intensified its activities this year in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Koica in the Philippines,” Koica Country Director KIM Eunsub said.

Korean Embassy Counsellor KWON Soon Hyun mentioned that “the LPPWP coastal cleanup is considered even more meaningful with the participation of key partners such as USAid and PhilKOFA. This year is the 75th year of Philippines-Korea diplomatic relations, and the Korean government aims to continue supporting the efforts of the Philippine government in marine environmental conservation and rehabilitation.”

“Manila Bay once teemed with rich marine biodiversity but is now gravely affected by plastic and wastes. Let’s do our part in making it healthy again. Let’s make every day an Earth Day,” USAid Philippines Environment Office Director Ryder Rogers said.

Data in 2023 showed that the Philippines topped the list of global plastic polluters, accounting for 36 percent or more than 350,000 tons of ocean plastic waste annually.

Latest findings from the 2023 Rapid Assessment Standing Stock Survey carried out by Cora and Koica at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park revealed that food wrappers and sachets constitute the predominant type of marine litter, comprising 32.9 percent of the total waste collected. This alarming statistic is closely followed by plastic bottles, accounting for 15.3 percent of the accumulated waste.

This stressed the need for the country to improve solid waste management to prevent garbage that usually ends up in rivers and oceans.

“Plastic pollution causes great harm to the environment, economy, and human health. By strengthening solid waste management systems on a municipal level, we can recover recyclable resources before they end up in our seas and landfills while empowering women and communities through the circular economy,” Cora founder and Executive Director Antoinette Taus said.

The five-year, $8.2 million “Enhancement of Marine Litter Management in Manila Bay” (EMLM) Project implemented by Koica and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with support from USAid aims to support local efforts in addressing the marine pollution crisis in the country.

Activities include operating a clean-up vessel in Manila Bay, and promoting awareness, driving behavioral changes, and implementing sustainable solutions on waste management.

Under the EMLM Project, Cora, together with Koica, Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation (KOEM) and Our Sea of East Asia Network (Osean), conducts citizen science activities through regular marine litter monitoring, monthly coastal clean-ups, and social behavior change (SBC) campaigns to address marine litter in Manila Bay through the My Osean Mission program.

In the last three months, Osean Mission cleanups have collected over 819 kilograms of marine litter, most of which are plastic-based materials.

“By training our volunteers as citizen scientists, Cora’s coastal clean-ups become a powerful tool in collecting valuable data that is shared with scientists, lawmakers, and innovators to create policies, technologies, and systems to help solve the plastic pollution crisis,” Taus added.

The clean-up event at LPPWP serves as a powerful symbol of global cooperation and collective action in the fight against marine litter pollution. It aligns with the spirit of Earth Day, highlighting the importance of environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

Koica is a Korean government agency responsible for providing official development assistance to developing countries. Its mission is to promote sustainable socio-economic growth in partner countries through various development programs and projects.

Cora is a non-profit organization that addresses global issues such as hunger, poverty, inequality, and climate change. It strives to create sustainable solutions for a better world through community-based initiatives and partnerships. Learn more about Cora by visiting www.wearecora.org. (PR)

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