SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The deep creases on Resty Del Rosario’s sun-burned face tell the story of years of going out to sea — from dawn till dusk — ravaged by harsh rays and the relentless wind, as a fisherman and trader off the coast of Subic bay, along Morong, Bataan.
Del Rosario, now a grizzled barangay captain of four towns along the Bataan coast, namely, San Antonio, Subic, Olongapo and Morong, remembers when the fish catch was plentiful off these waters. “We didn’t have to go too far to net fish 20 years ago,” he told the Manila Standard. “But as factories, business and housing subdivisions crept through the coastline, we noticed that fishermen had to go further out every year. That’s the price of progress, I suppose,” he said, grinning ruefully.
But while a dwindling catch is a cause of concern for ‘Kap Resty’ and his ‘kasamas’ in the barangay, nothing is more alarming to them than the spreading pollution along the bay, which includes unsightly surface and underwater garbage, and flotsam.
“This we have the power to solve, and we intend to do this with the help of various stakeholders such as the SBMA (Subic Bay Management Authority), private sector partners, locators, and various community organizations,” said Del Rosario, who is also the chairman of the Subic Bay Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Fisherfolk Association (SBIFARMFA) in the four towns.
“We only have one home and this is our home. What you are trying to do here is a testament to what I am trying to say. I hope we’ll continue to get support to do it,” he said.
‘Protect the Bay’
Some 500 volunteers recently joined Del Rosario’s ‘Protect the Bay’ clean up, scouring the beachfronts and waters off Subic Bay to rid the popular tourism attraction and neighboing towns around it of trash that had found its way here.
The one-day event, part of a series of clean-up events drummed up since two years ago, was organized by various community groups and government agencies, including the SBMA and the Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc., or RP Energy (RPE), at Sitio Kinabuksan in Barangay Cawag, Subic, Zambales.
The volunteers included students from Kinabuksan, members of the Calapandayan Fisherfolks Association, personnel from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Olongapo City, Philippine Coast Guard, the SBMA ecology center and public relations department, and representatives of the RPE.
In the past, youth volunteers, in cooperation with the coast guard and diver groups, would go as far as don masks and flippers in search of underwater garbage and flotsam.
This particular event, held last weekend, focused on working the long Subic shoreline for marine, household and tourism-related debris.
At the end of the day, the “clean up heroes” weighed in with more than 50 kilos of collected waste. This included 35.5 kilos of trash found along the shore and 22 kilos of garbage from the water.
The shoreline haul consisted of 7 kilos of nets, 9 kilos of ropes, 10 kilos of plastic, 3 kilos of styrofor packaging, 1.5 kilos of plastic bottle and 5 kilos of plastic.
The trash brought in volunteers in fishermen’s boats, after 40 minutes of search at the nearby reef areas, included 6 kilos of rubber slippers, 5 kilos of plastic and 11 kilos of bottles.
“In the past, our clean-up efforts, which we started in 2002, were haphazard,” admitted Del Rosario. “But with the help of RPE, we came up with a stratplan so our efforts would be more scientific and thus, effective. For example, based on data culled from fishermen who regularly go out to sea, we are able to study weather patterns to pinpoint where garbage will come from, and where they would end up along the coastline during various parts of the year.”
Said Meralco PowerGen VP for external affairs Litz Santana: “We are happy that the Protect the Bay Initiative has become a multi-sectoral effort and platform, engaging volunteers from the government, from the youth, to parents, to fisherfolk. They’re the ones who will sustain the success of this program.”
“Beyond doing a clean-up, we want to instill environmental awareness among the communities here,” she explained.
Bitten by the bug
Various locators and employees within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone have ostensibly gotten bitten by the clean up bug as well.
During last weekend’s event at the Subic Bay boardwalk, locators and their employees from a myriad of business establishments, namely restaurants, bars, hotels and strip malls, joined the fisherfolk of Subic and Olongapo to enthusiastically scour the coastline for trash.
“Together, there’s a lot we can accomplish,” Del Rosario said, beaming at the accumulated trash that volunteers had collected after the event. “We want to give everybody in this community, and outside, a chance to extend their passion for the care of the environment.”
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