By Arlene Grace Avenue
“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere,” Annie Leonard reminding us about the only society we have. Disposing waste improperly affects the environment, especially critical habitats that communities depend on.
Last February 2020, travel vlogger Neb Andro featured his expedition at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) on his Youtube channel. His video is a tour on Freedom Island, which is a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. He also showed where Miss Earth 2019 candidates conducted their tree-planting and coastal cleanup activities during that year’s Earth Day Celebration.
However, it was also apparent in the video how polluted water kills marine life while coasts were littered with an indefinite volume of garbage carried by the wave. It did not surprise Andro anymore.
Tons of sacks of waste are being collected every week. But Andro reflects that no matter how many times the area was cleaned, and if solid waste mismanagement continues to come from neighboring cities, the persistent problem of LPPCHEA will have no end. LPPCHEA has been allowing volunteers from various organizations to conduct cleaning operations and research as long as permits are processed. Andro reminded us that LPPCHEA is a protected habitat because it provides refuge for many protected species and that Freedom Island needs to be free from pollution.
Situated at the south of Manila Bay, LPPCHEA is one of the few nature reserves in Metro Manila that lies along the coast of the cities of Las Piñas and Parañaque. It covers about 175 hectares of wetland ecosystem consisting of two islands, the Long Island (at the southwest portion of Las Piñas City) and Freedom Island (at the northeast part in Parañaque City).
LPPCHEA was formally established on April 22, 2007, through Presidential Proclamation 1412 and declared as the Philippines’ first Ramsar site, or a wetland of international importance defined under the Ramsar Convention. Its management is led by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.
The entire wetland of LPPCHEA is critical for biodiversity conservation and in promoting social and environmental awareness while maintaining sustainable development. It provides spawning grounds for fingerlings, livelihood to fisherfolk communities, flood control for nearby cities, and sanctuary for endemic and migratory birds coming from as far as China, Japan, and Siberia.
LPPCHEA also combats climate change faced by the world through mangroves – which serve as filters for pollutants; they disperse strong wave surges and reduce the impacts of floods protecting the coastal area of Las Piñas and Parañaque. Mangroves also prevent erosion, while their rich and waterlogged soil helps absorb greenhouse gases which increase global average temperature.
Reclamation and many other human activities remain threats to the LPPCHEA. Pollution and urban development are the leading causes of damage to the wetland. The consequences are profound and far-reaching. Wildlife that LPPCHEA has provided shelter will be at risk, which will affect the livelihood, and the mangroves that have been protected the cities from disastrous floods will be gone.
As LPPCHEA is one of the last remaining sanctuaries defending Metro Manila from the climate crisis. Filipinos are part of protecting it. With the collective actions, ‘away’ in the country’s waste management will end.
This article was written and prepared by Arlene Grace Avenue (Student-Journalist) and Virgilio Torio, Jr. (School Paper Adviser) from Golden Acres National High, Division of Las Pinas City as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.