By By Glenn C. Camacho
Virac does its share in stopping plastic pollution in the ocean
posted 20-Jan-2019  ·  
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Last Friday, thousands of people flocked to the Plaza Rizal Covered Courts for the Pasalinggaya Arangkada sa Basura Raffle Bonanza conducted by the municipal government of Virac, with the administration of Mayor Samuel Laynes offering cash prizes totaling P300,000.

Scores of people in the nine districts consisting of 63 barangays as well as school children and government employees won anywhere from P500 cash to the maximum P10,000 per district.

What is interesting is that those who participated in the unique raffle do not buy the tickets or spend for them with their hard-earned cash. All they did was pack plastic waste from discarded single-use plastics to empty coffee sachets into big plastic bottles to be exchanged for raffle tickets in their barangays or at the municipal hall.

This is the third time that the Laynes administration, known for its “Serbisyong Malinis, Serbisyong Mabilis” motto, has conducted the unique draw as a key program of its solid waste management program.

In its first two Pasalinggaya draws since the mayor was elected into office in 2016, the municipality was able to gather around 140,000 plastic-filled bottles.

This time, the project outdid itself, surpassing the accomplishment of the first two draws by collecting a total of 160,000 bottles.

What happens to the bottles is testament to the cooperation between government agencies in addressing plastic waste.

According to Mayor Laynes, the waste-filled bottles will be bought by contractors to be used as fillers in minor infrastructure projects such as the construction of concrete guard rails along national highways being maintained by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Already, the DPWH Catanduanes Engineering District headed by District Engineer Gil Balmadrid has already prepared plans for the inclusion of the waste-filled bottles in the structures and estimates that it would need over two million bottles for the purpose.

Why is this relevant?

The Philippines is said to be the third largest plastic polluter in the world, with hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic waste leaking into our seas daily through our rivers and streams.

According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines president and CEO Joel Palma, this is altering the most important ecosystem – the coastal regions.

“Already, scientists are saying that in a few decades, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish," he said.

In its coastal clean-up activity in March 2018 in Donsol, Sorsogon, where tourists watch whale sharks, WWF managed to collect 76 kilograms of trash – mostly cigarette butts and plastic wrappers.

Debris that end up in the seas and oceans affects marine wildlife and ultimately ends up being absorbed by fishes and humans who eat them for food. It also affects the tourism industry as seas and coral reefs are covered by plastic waste.

Mayor Laynes estimates that each plastic bottle that was exchanged for a raffle ticket contained 800 grams of plastic waste. Thus, the stockpile of waste-filled bottles now in the municipality’s inventory has removed a total of 240,000 kilos or 240 tons of plastic waste that otherwise would have dirtied Cabugao Bay and the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Virac’s example should be emulated by the other towns in Catanduanes and other places in the country if we are to ensure that our marine ecosystem will be preserved for the future generations.

We should also learn to do away with single-plastics from plastic bags we use for bread to coffee and shampoo sachets which end up in the streets and rivers, if we are to personally contribute to this worldwide effort.

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