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          MANILA – The US government is helping the country battle marine debris.

          On Thursday, the US government awarded local environment advocate, Mother Earth Foundation, and public interest network EcoWaste Coalition grants totaling some PHP20 million to support anti-marine debris projects the groups had committed to undertake in the country.

          “We’re proud to work with the Philippines in finding and funding solutions to the plastic waste problem in our oceans,” US Deputy Chief of Mission John Law said at the grant-signing event in Quezon City.

          He raised the urgency for action, noting that plastics’ invasion of marine waters is already harming ecosystems and biodiversity aside from threatening people’s health.

          “Every year, eight million tons of plastic waste are dumped in the world’s oceans,” he said.

          Such waste ends up inside the bodies of people who eat fish that ingest this debris, he noted.

          The grants are part of the Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP) of USAID, the lead US government agency for international development and disaster assistance.

          MWRP “supports solid waste management and water recycling efforts by local and national governments, civil society organizations and academic institutions in the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam,” US Embassy in Manila said in its press release.

          According to Mother Earth Foundation chairperson Sonia Mendoza, the group will use the said grant to transform the 30 barangay units in Batangas City into zero waste villages

          “We’ll do a house-to-house information and education campaign there to teach people how to achieve zero waste,” she said at the grant-signing’s side.

          Achieving zero waste will help mitigate the flow of debris -- particularly plastics -- into marine waters, she noted.

          Zero waste is the concept of generating little or no waste.

          Mendoza said the foundation will undertake its project during the next 18 months.

          EcoWaste national coordinator Aileen Lucero said this network’s share of the total grant will fund research on plastics pollution in Manila Bay and waste collection efficiency there.

          “Data we’ll generate will serve as baseline for the national action plan on marine litter,” she said.

          She also said such data will help the environment department assess its marine debris-relevant policies so this agency can either enhance or change these.

          The research project will last for 18 months, she noted.

          Environment undersecretary Benny Antiporda thanked the US government for awarding the grants, noting such support will boost efforts for addressing the country’s marine debris problem.

          “You, me, we’re the environment -- let’s take very good care of it,” he said at the grant-signing event.

          Earlier, the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) called for increased cooperation on mitigating plastics pollution in oceans to avert the further environmental degradation and biodiversity loss there.

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          Properly disposing of waste and using reusable materials and products are among ways people can do to help prevent more plastic waste from reaching and polluting oceans, she noted.

          “By working together, we can protect our shared oceans,” she said.

          Lim made the call noting that land-based activities and waste -- particularly plastics -- already account for over 80 percent of marine pollution. (PNA)



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