Panglao Island is a major tourist hub in the Visayas region. A large volume of trash is produced by local residents throughout the year but during high season the incoming tourists add to this significantly. Local businesses that depend on tourism have a vested interest in having beaches free of litter and actively collect marine debris along the shores of their own property. The beaches that are not frequented by tourists however have a large amount of trash and are usually only inhabited by locals. Although these beaches are not commonly seen by the tourists, the local dive centres often visit the reefs adjacent to them and trash from the beach inevitably goes out to sea and has consequences for the marine life and diminishes the scenery for the divers.
On July 20th 2016, Green Fins Assessors coordinated a multi stakeholder beach cleanup event that was attended by over 80 volunteers. The event took place at a beach in Barangay Doljo. The site of the main cleanup activities is heavily used by locals and dive centres and so there is sometimes conflict about who creates the marine debris. The parts of the beach that have the highest amount of trash are those farthest from the resorts and are never cleaned or managed and because of this high volume of trash and the fact that dive centres have an interest to keep the area tidy for their guests, Doljo was the ideal site.
In just under three hours the volunteers had collected 1000 kg of trash from the beach. The trash consisted of glass bottles, metal cans, Styrofoam and countless plastic food packets. The beach looked much cleaner for having removed this large amount of trash and in turn a pressure is reduced. Perhaps most importantly, the participants left with a sense that they had made a difference, that they had a stake in the health of the ecosystem, and that they themselves had the power to protect their livelihoods from the threat of marine debris. Cooperation and community involvement is a powerful tool and this event helped them to see just how much progress can be made with just a small amount of time from a large enough group of passionate individuals. Although 1000kg was just a drop in the ocean of trash observed, this 1000kg will no longer be “dropped in the ocean”