Metro cities mark Earth Day with clean-up drives, info campaigns

MANILA, Philippines – From symbolic engine switch-off activities to clean-up drives, local government units in Metro Manila marked the global celebration of Earth Day with efforts to encourage the public to be more proactive in protecting the environment. 

The Earth Day celebration on Wednesday, April 22, came a day after the Philippines' good conservation efforts – but consistently bad air quality – were highlighted in a report released by the environment department.

The theme for this year's global celebration of Earth Day is "It's our turn to lead."

In Metro Manila, government leaders, advocates, and civic groups came together to raise awareness about the state of the planet, in a year poised to make environmental history. (READ: Climate change: Key dates on the way to Paris accord)

Cleaning up a critical habitat

On Wednesday, around 500 volunteers from different organizations pledged to help protect the 175-hectare Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat Eco-tourism Area (LPPCHEA), a mangrove forest and marine habitat critical for promoting biodiversity and sustainable ecological balance in Metro Manila.

Despite being declared a protected area in 2007, the last mangrove forest in Metro Manila is still under threat of disappearing. 

The volunteers, which included candidates of Miss Philippines Earth 2015, cleaned up the coastal area of Las Piñas and signed on a "commitment wall" to show their support for the preservation of LPPCHEA, which is under threat of reclamation and conversion to other land uses.

Senator Cynthia Villar, who joined the clean up activity, also noted LPPCHEA's global significance, having been recognized in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

Villar said, “We are holding these activities to instill awareness among our people on the importance of LPPCHEA to our environment and Mother Earth."

INFO CAMPAIGN. Residents of Barangay Potrero in Malabon learn about the proper ways to segregate their trash. Photo by Katerina Francisco/Rappler

INFO CAMPAIGN. Residents of Barangay Potrero in Malabon learn about the proper ways to segregate their trash.

Photo by Katerina Francisco/Rappler

Waste management: Easing floods, saving cash

The celebration of Earth Day in Barangay Potrero, one of the most flood-prone areas in Malabon City, has a practical value to residents: teaching them how to help prevent flooding in their community and even earn extra money.

Around 30 residents turned up on Wednesday for the ecological solid waste management training and art workshop facilitated by the Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development (ACCORD) and the Partners for Resilience (PFR) program. 

The activities aimed to teach community members on the proper ways to segregate their trash and find alternative uses for old household items.

“Waste management is an important thing for us to learn. This will help us properly dispose of our wastes so we no longer have to worry about garbage worsening flooding in the community,” said Sheryl Nolasco, Potrero's barangay captain.

Residents were taught how to segregate their trash and how to identify which items could be sold to junk shops for extra income.

Barangay officer Mariedel Barbin said around 500 families have committed to the waste management program, with the barangay also offering incentives to reward the most successful households.

"Potrero is a low-lying area that's vulnerable to flooding. Teaching proper waste management to residents is a small step that empowers them to act on the factors that they can control," said ACCORD's Isabelle Baguisi.

Promoting recycling, clean air efforts

In Makati City, the local government will cap off its week-long observance of Earth Day with a symbolic activity that puts the spotlight on Metro Manila's polluted air.

With Metro Manila fighting an uphill battle to improve air quality, motorists traveling along the Ayala Triangle Gardens on Saturday, April 25, will be asked to show their support for clean air by switching off their engines for 5 minutes.

Participating motorists may also have their photos taken with Miss Philippines Earth candidates, who will be conducting the symbolic "Tigil Buga" activity from 3:30 pm to 4 pm.

The city also held a tree-planting activity along Osmeña Highway, and a Recyclables Fair where city hall employees turned their trash into treasure by selling used paper, electronic devices, and car batteries to junk shop operators. –