Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called on Filipinos to cut down on the use of plastics that end up in the ocean and pose threat to marine life.

Cimatu noted that plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to ocean health worldwide as an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste finds its way into the oceans every year.

“The task of reversing this issue is as big and wide as the ocean, but small actions can make a huge difference,” Cimatu said, as he urged people to become “stewards of marine life” by reducing plastics use.

The environment chief made the appeal as the nation joined the rest of the world in celebrating the World Wildlife Day 2019, which carries the theme: “Life below water: for people and planet.”

According to Ocean Conservancy, 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year on top of the 150 million tons of plastic that already circulate in the ocean, contributing to loss of species and contamination of food chain.

Based on the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup report, cigarette butts, plastic bottles and caps, straws and stirrers, among other kinds of plastic bags, were some of the top items found.

The report also indicated that such wastes could harm 1 million seabirds, 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish annually due to ingestion and entanglement.

Citing a United Nations report, Cimatu said the Philippines is one of top 5 contributors of plastic waste in the world’s oceans, accounting for about half of the total plastic leakage.

“We produce 2.7 metric tons of plastic waste every year,” Cimatu said. “Following this trajectory of plastic production and mismanagement, UN reports predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)—through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB)—gave out 44 medals during the 6th Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards to the men and women who defended the “voiceless wildlife species” against illegal collectors and traders.

The awardees consist of 21 officers from the National Bureau of Investigation; 14 from the Bureau of Customs; six from the Philippine National Police; two from the City Government of Cebu; and one from the Department of Agriculture–Bureau of Animal Industry.

BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said that annually, the DENR “bestows official recognition to partners who have valuable contributions in the enforcement of wildlife laws, rules, and regulations.”

“For the past five years, the DENR has conferred the Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards to at least 365 men and women,” she said.

The WWD 2019 also featured a formal awarding ceremony for the recipients of grants from the United States Agency for International Development or USAID for graduate students pursuing further studies that are aligned with the project’s research priorities in conserving the biodiversity in the Philippines.

Among the students and their research topics which received grants include Mr. Adrian Luczon (University of the Philippines – Diliman) for his study on the Philippine fruit bats; Ms. Amelita Luna (University of the Philippines – Los Baños) for her study on metallophytes or plants which can thrive in metal-rich soils and how it can be used for mined-out areas; Mr. Adriane Tobias (University of the Philippines – Los Baños) for his study on Rafflesia or a parasitic flowering plant which can be found in the Philippines and its other species; Mr. Yñigo Luis Del Prado (University of Santo Tomas) for his study on the Philippine pit vipers; and Mr. Jayson Caranza (University of the Philippines – Los Baños) for his study on the Capisaan Cave System in Nueva Vizcaya.

The celebration also featured a quiz bee for the Grade 9 students in a bid to encourage the next generation to appreciate the biodiversity and marine wildlife even more. ###