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The Philippines will participate in this year’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), a global campaign to protect the ocean and its inhabitants, but with some major adjustments due to safety concerns related to COVID-19.

To mark the local observance of ICC Day on Sept. 19, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will lead a cleanup activity along the coast of Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard, with fewer volunteers, mostly government employees.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that unlike in previous years, there will be no large gatherings at the traditional sites on shorelines and creeks nationwide during the ICC Day 2020.

Instead, he said volunteers are encouraged to conduct safe and socially distant individual or small group cleanups, or through at-home efforts to reduce plastic waste.

“Our duty to keep our shorelines, rivers and waterways clean does not stop even with the pandemic. It is a task that we should take on every single day,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu gave emphasis on proper disposal of coronavirus wastes, such as single-use face masks and gloves, which have become a new form of pollution threatening marine life and ecosystems.

“The minimal disturbance in our oceans due to reduced water activities has led to a resurgence of marine animals,” Cimatu pointed out. “However, we are threatening their existence again with our medical wastes—their new nemesis.”

For this year’s ICC, volunteers are limited to small groups to ensure physical distancing. The use of face masks and face shields will be strictly enforced during the event, along with other health protocols.

After the cleanup, Cimatu will proceed to the site of the Manila Bay beach nourishment project to check on the progress of the ongoing operation to fill a 500-meter portion of the bay area with dolomite sand. The project includes desilting and introduction of geo-intervention to prevent the sand from being washed out.

Meanwhile, the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) will be taking the ICC Day celebration to every home through the digital platform.

“Fittingly, this year’s celebration follows the theme, ‘Safe Oceans Start at Home’ which will still support and promote the protection and conservation of the oceans but within the safety of our homes,” said DENR Officer-in-Charge Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent BMB Director Ricardo Calderon.

The BMB’s Coastal and Marine Division will host a webinar featuring CleanSeas Pilipinas and Planet CORA (Communities Organized for Resource Allocation) and a mini-concert to be live-streamed on its official Facebook page.

ICC is the world's largest, volunteer effort to clean up the marine environment. Every year, volunteers from over 100 countries descend on local beaches, rivers, lakes and canals to show their commitment to cleaner waterways.

The Ocean Conservancy, the world's largest organization focusing exclusively on the health of the marine environment, has sponsored this annual event for the past 33 years.

For over a decade, the Philippines has had the most number of volunteers in the annual ICC Day around the world. Last year, more than 20,000 Filipino volunteers joined the cleanup in different areas in the country. #