A month ago, if a foreign traveler asked me where the nearest mangrove forest lies, I’d probably tell him to take the bus to Quezon or fly to Palawan. If one asked me to take him to a place where he could go bird-watching aside from UP Diliman, I’d probably drive him out of the city to Pampanga. If he asked me to take him to a place where he could see dolphins, I’d tell him to head over to Batangas. I just didn’t know any place within Metro Manila where anyone could bond with nature.
Recently, however, I learned about two islands stretching in Manila Bay. Freedom Island and Long Island, collectively called Freedom Islands, lie off the coast of Paranaque and Las Pinas. And these are no ordinary islands. Also called the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, the Freedom Islands have a huge ecological role in the area. The Freedom Island is the last remaining mangrove forest and salt marsh frontier in Metro Manila. These two islands also serve as a sanctuary for many marine lifeforms and a refuge for more than 80 species of birds, both local and migratory.
But the Freedom Islands are under threat.
The garbage the city produces seems to have found its way to the Freedom Islands. The tides are bringing trash, most of which are plastic, to the shores of the islands. Not to mention that the waters of the Manila Bay had been severely polluted for the longest time. Pollution is a big threat to the wildlife in the islands.
In September this year, several NGOs led a cleanup program to start rehabilitate the Islands. They cleared the beach and removed the trash that had been damaging the area. But it’s a cycle. It’s back to its littered state again that it calls for another Coastal Clean Up!
On this note, I am inviting you all to join this program. October 23 is Freedom Islands Clean Up Day! Let’s all work together to tidy up this sanctuary and protect the wildlife that depends on it. The mangrove forest is shrinking and if it continues, then the birds would go away, too.
Details on the photo below or on this Facebook Event page:
But it doesn’t stop there. Aside from the impending reclamation of the Islands to pave way for a highway linking Las Pinas and Paranaque, another big threat is our lack of waste management system combined with our lack of discipline. Many of us do not segregate. Many of us do not recycle. Many of us do not even care about our excessive use of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials. Caring for the ocean starts at home. We must change our bad habits first.
I hope the photo above should serve as a reminder to all of us on what happens to the trash we throw away and where they go.
But let’s be positive. It’s NOT too late! Let’s all join the Coastal Clean Up on October 23. It’s a start. If we save Freedom Islands, who knows how many more islands our collective effort can free from destruction.