MANILA - More than half a year into the Philippine government's multi-agency effort to rehabilitate the Manila Bay, an increase in volunteers marked the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday.
Around 15,000 participants joined this year's cleanup at the main cleanup site in Baseco, Manila, according to estimates from the Manila Public Information Office.
Initially, around 13,000 signed up to join, said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). Last year, the event drew 7,000 volunteers.
Baseco residents were the first to gather trash along the coast, later joined by students, employees from non-government organizations, companies, and government agencies.
MMDA Chair Danilo Lim said the turnout was a sign that more Filipinos see the urgency of cleaning up the coast.
"Nakakatuwa talaga 'yung dami ng volunteers natin. Di namin inexpect na ganito kalaki," he said.
(It’s heartening to see the large number of our volunteers. We didn’t expect it to be this big.)
The MMDA conducts weekly cleanups along Manila Bay but has a regular team of 25 personnel assigned to collect trash at Baseco daily.
Volunteers are required to record the types of trash recovered. The data will help the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Manila Bay Task Force determine future plans for the bay rehab.
The mass of participants at Baseco stretched kilometers from the so-called Baseco beach to the Baseco aplaya area, where informal settlers live closer to the sea.
George Dela Rama, spokesperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, said much work remains to clean up the Baseco area, particularly the shore.
These include continuous cleanup activities and stricter implementation of environmental laws by local officials and community leaders.
Aside from Baseco, this year's cleanup also covers the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, SM By The Bay and the coastal area of the CCP Complex in Pasay City, and the riverbanks of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa, Manila.