Manila, 15 April 2023: The Regional Knowledge Centre of Marine Plastic Debris (RKC-MPD) team of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) visited Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP) in Metro Manila, The Philippines to study the degree of plastic pollution observed in the area.
Manila Bay plays an important role for the East Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF), the term used for describing the highway in the sky for birds to escape harsh winter in the northern hemisphere. Most of the birds in this migratory journey are from Russia, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, and Alaska. Some of the birds stay in the Philippines during the winter while some other only take a break in the country before continuing the journey along EAAF.
With the total area of 181,63 hectares, the LPPWP is one of the designated Wetlands of International Importance in the country. This recognition is based on the Ramsar Convention, which aims to encourage the conservation and wise use of wetlands through local and national actions, as well as international cooperation.
The LPPWP boasts a range of notable attributes, such as being a habitat for around 5.000 migratory and residential birds. This number encompasses 47 migratory vulnerable species, including the Chinese Egret and one of the most important resident bird species, vulnerable Philippine duck. Furthermore, in 2007, the site was appointed as a Critical Habitat for the survival of threatened, restricted-range, and congregate species.
The threat of plastic pollution
Being a part of the EAAF, the ecosystem services that the LPPWP provides for the migratory birds are of crucial importance. However, land reclamation, water pollution, habitat disturbance, and plastic pollution are some of the anthropogenic threats that the migratory birds are facing now on their journey.
Plastic pollution in particular, is visibly present inside the LPPWP. The ERIA team observed layers of plastic waste trapped and accumulated in the mangrove area during the visit. The officers of the wetland park explained that despite their efforts to clean it regularly, plastic waste keeps coming back.
“The plastics come from the oceans. The consumption is very high in this country’ said Ms Janina from Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Beside plastic waste collection in the mangrove area, other clean-up activities are also carried out to address the plastic pollution in the site. The activity is usually performed twice a week and conducted by several groups, which mainly come from schools or local communities. After being collected, the waste is then picked up by relevant government authorities.
‘Since the wetland park is located between two cities, Las Piñas and Parañaque, there are two responsible government bodies. For the waste in Las Piñas, it will be picked up by the officers from the municipality. Meanwhile, the waste in Parañaque will be picked up by the officers from the DENR. In the end, all the waste will be disposed in Rizal Provincial Sanitary Landfills’ said Ms Janina.
To reduce the floating plastics in the sea, DENR operates trash boats equipped with a net to catch and collect floating plastics. During the visit, the team came across some of the boats resting on shore, either due to the visit coinciding with the non-operating hours, or because of them being out of order.
Microplastics were also spotted in the beach area of LPPWP. According to the officers, dead birds were reported in the site in the past, but without the authority to conduct an autopsy, they have no means to determine the reason behind the death of the birds.
‘We cannot make sure whether it was because the ingested microplastics or not. We did not have the authority to do the observation’ closed Ms Janina.