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Healthy oceans, healthy people (Part 1)

It is well that this year the Philippines hosted the 6th Ministerial Forum of the East Asian Seas Congress (EASC) organized by the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA). With one of the world’s longest coastline strung along 7247 islands, the Philippines is particularly situated to host and serve as some sort of a living laboratory on how to secure the health of our seas and, of course, peoples and their communities.

The EASC which meets every three years rounds up in one setting governments, national and local, as well as non-government organizations 

and international networks in a bid to enhance partnerships in the continuing effort to develop sustainable solutions to coastal management issues particularly in the East Asian region.

The Congress’ theme: “East Asian Region Moving As One to Secure Healthy Oceans, People and Economies” is specially significant as it comes at a time when Asian, not just East Asian, countries and seas have been pinpointed by a number of scientific organizations as the source of most of the world’s plastic waste which has put the world’s oceans, its resources and influenced communities at risk. It is doubly significant that in its 25 years of existence, PEMSEA, which is hosted by our very own Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has managed to collect, analyze and structure a veritable hoard of data and, perhaps more importantly, strategies to secure “healthy oceans” for “healthy peoples and economies.” 

Such strategic hoard will come in handy at this time as it coincides with China’s ban on the import of plastic waste of all shapes and kinds this year. As everybody knows, plastic waste has turned out to be the most problematic of all wastes which have invaded the world’s oceans in the past quarter century.  More and more non-biodegradable plastics got churned out to serve the needs of an ever-growing global population.

Monitoring the route of most of these plastic wastes has shown that for decades almost half of the world’s plastic trash has been sent to China where these were recycled to create more plastic products for domestic and industrial use. The latest statistics show that last year alone China “imported” almost 47 million metric tons of recyclable waste of single use soda bottles, food wrappers and plastic bags.

But in a recent report published in the South China Morning Post, as of July this year China finally imposed a ban on 24 types of solid waste including plastics, scrap paper and discarded textiles as calls for more and better clean up arrangements in many of the host communities mounted. This has left many of the “waste exporting” countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and yes, the biggest “exporter of all” – the United States – in a tizzy to the point that in the October meeting of the World Trade Organizations these countries ganged up, in a real sense, on China for this sudden policy shift. To no avail.

The ban stays and the search for locations for the wastes, mainly plastics, has become a frenzy. Noted the Post’s report: “The journal Science Advances advised that in research done by the University of Georgia, China’s import ban will leave 111 million metric tons of plastic trash displaced by 2030...Since the ban, recycling businesses around the world have been thrown into turmoil, with recyclable waste piling up at waste treatment sites.”

To be continued

Topics: Jonathan Dela Cruz , Healthy oceans , healthy people , 6th Ministerial Forum of the East Asian Seas Congress , EASC
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