Together with local people and Siemens Gamesa employees, Oeoo Manila collected a total of 33.6 tons of marine litter in just 7 days in the last week of November. Here is the report by Daniel Scheler, the director of oeoo Manila:
With local fishermen and their families, their traditional bangkas (fishing boats) were mobilized every morning from 6am to clean the Paranaque River and its estuary.
Depending on the time of day and the weather, our team undertakes specific priorities. So we focus on very shallow stretches of river between the Informal Settlements (settlements of extremely poor people) only when the water level is high and the stretches under the bridgeheads when the water level is rather low and when the it gets too hot to collect.
We usually only clean the beach on the “Freedom Island” nature reserve in the morning because of the midday heat. This beach is incredibly polluted. We have been to this island several times and have collected a lot of rubbish here. It is always shocking and very frustrating how much rubbish lies here, and how hard / dangerous / sweaty work it is to collect the rubbish and how quickly it gets completly trashed again. After only 1-2 tide cycles it can look exactly the same as before.
The shores of this region are regularly inundated with plastic waste, and local residents are not entirely to blame for this. Even during our cleaning campaign, rubbish was thrown directly into the river from the windows of the settlements several times. However, we are also told by the communities that sometimes huge connected carpets of plastic waste come down the river or rubbish from other parts of Manila Bay is pushed into the river mouth. This is particularly the case with tropical storms with heavy rain.
Many Attendees who see it for the first time are overwhelmed by the sight. What is even more disturbing, however, are full garbage bags, apparently from previous cleanup campaigns, which are overgrown by new plants here on the beach, of course we take these with us too…
People’s reactions range from derailed facial features to anger and the odd tear. Most people try to suppress this or cover it up with jokes like “my eyes are sweating”. After a bit of gallows humour, everyone pitches in and collects rubbish until they can hardly move the poor ones.
Despite everything, the locals keep their good mood and infect everyone else with it. These people are amazingly impressive! Some of them don’t know if they’ll get something to eat today, but they manage to motivate whole groups with just a gesture or a smile. With such people, I hope to bring about a rethinking of families and children in informal settlement areas. Without these people, it will be difficult to get through to the communities. Because how else should you teach someone about sustainability if this person doesn’t even know how their family is supposed to survive the next few days.
We at oeoo would like to thank again all the participants: Siemens Gamesa, the sponsors of the week-long campaign, DENR and CENRO (rubbish collection), the Maritime Police for their energetic support, the City of Paranaque for the permits, Barangays La Huerte and Don Galo for their support and of course the fishermen and communities of the Bulungan fishing port/market.