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Dive professionals find single-use face masks floating underwater in Anilao, Batangas

By Brooke Villanueva Published Mar 12, 2021 3:31 am

It’s no doubt that the Philippines is home to a myriad of picturesque landscapes, but its underwater spots are just as spectacular.

When dive professionals decided to explore the Caban Cove in Anilao, Batangas, they were surprised to see its majestic beauty being washed off by so much waste, including single-use face masks.

“Just 10 minutes into the dive, we saw around 10-12 masks and we never had that before,” a diver told BBC. “We’ve seen some masks which are there for how many months already. You can see the algae and everything, so we don’t really want that to happen.”

Additionally, the report stated that during the peak of the pandemic, the city “could have been generating up to 280 tons of extra medical waste per day,” as estimated by the Asian Development Bank.

What makes the situation even more unpleasant? “Without adequate waste management here in the Philippines, some of it (recovered waste) could end up back in the sea,” said Philippines correspondent Howard Johnson. “That’s a problem because polymers inside the surgical masks are breaking down into microplastics easily consumed by marine wildlife and the coral reefs that nurture them.”

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda has reacted to the news in a phone interview with PhilSTAR L!FE. “This is an isolated case. But rather than talking about the problem, I would say that we will be proactive on this,” he assured.

The DENR official confessed it may be hard to consistently police those in the middle of the sea, but they are making sure that their rules in terms of waste management are being strengthened.

“We are already coordinating with the seaports and instructed the coast guard to tell all the vessels to have at least one bin,” Antiporda said. Additionally, they have come up with a memorandum circular to the Department of the Interior and Local Government “telling local governments to have a yellow bin or two separate bins that will take care of household healthcare waste and make sure it won’t end up in our waters in the future.”

Article thumbnails from BBC via @underwatermojo