Over 120 parishioners, seminarians and environmental volunteers conducted a coastal cleanup drive in Olongapo City to culminate the month St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Ecology.
Held today, October 30, at the Parola (Lighthouse) in Barangay Kalaklan, Olongapo City, the pro-environment event was initiated to create awareness on the impact of open dumping in waterways, clean up rivers and coastal areas as far as possible and motivate the locals to stop illegal dumping activities.
“We have come here today to bear witness to the trashing of our environment and to affirm our duty to restore and protect it. By cleaning up the Parola area, we renew our responsibility to care for the creation like what St. Francis has taught us,” said Rev. Fr. Kenneth Masong of the St. Columban Parish.
St. Francis of Assisi was proclaimed patron of ecology in 1979 by then Pope John Paul II for being “an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation.”
For his part Rev. Fr. Cris Robles Pine, President and Dean of the Our Lady of the Angels Seminary "urged the faithful to heed the 'cry of the earth' as Pope Francis exhorted in his landmark encyclical 'Laudato Si' and stop treating Mother Nature, her lands, rivers and oceans, as receptacles for the excesses of our throw-away culture."
Joining the community of St. Columban Parish in the cleanup drive were volunteers from the Franciscan Youth, Our Lady of the Angels Seminary, Alternative Learning Resource School-Philippines and the EcoWaste Coalition.
“The open dumping of garbage, an environmental crime, is not only illegal and irresponsible. It’s also deadly, particularly for the aquatic creatures who bear the brunt of reckless waste disposal. We kill marine animals every time we arbitrarily throw our discards from plastic bags to tiny candy wrappers and cigarette butts on the streets and waterways,” stated Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Lucero cited the death of an endangered green sea turtle in Davao City last October 22 due to infection after ingesting at least 10 types of plastic materials that it mistakenly ate as food.
To understand the types of discards that are finding their way to the beach and to the Subic Bay, the group conducted an audit of the wastes collected from the cleanup drive.
Based on the waste audit, of the 242 kilos of wastes collected along the shores of the Parola, 20.5% were rubber, 19.6% diapers, 16% plastic bags, 12.5% polystyrene materials, 7.7 % glass bottles, 6% composite packaging, 6% biodegradable discards, 4% metals, 4% plastic cups, 1.6% paper and 1.6% PET bottles.
To curb marine pollution, the cleanup participants urged Olongapo City residents and transients to minimize their waste size and observe ecological waste management at all times.
“Like St. Francis, let us show love and respect for all of God’s creation starting by not dumping our discards wherever we please. It’s time to take to heart what is happening to our only nation and planet and to act to reverse the environmental destruction that is threatening the integrity of creation,” the groups said.