Maligayan pagbati sa Pilipinas na… walang plastik!
Now imagine if that was a saying. “Welcome to a Plastic Free Philippines!”
My short life’s journey has pretty much only revolved around plastics.
In fact so much so that when I was a young boy, I will always remember walking to school one day, when my mother told me, “If you don’t do your homework you’ll end up being a garbage man.”
Today I am deeply honored to be receiving the Ramon Magsaysay award for my work as a garbage man.
Sometimes, I wake up and it feels like a never-ending battle. We will be knee-deep in a river cleaning it up and feeling victorious, but the very next day with big rains, the river is filled with more trash than the previous day.
A new study reveals that there is no surface on earth without signs of plastic pollution. This means that every island in the Philippines, in Indonesia, under some shell, under some rock has plastic pollution.
Every single minute, a garbage truck full of plastic pollution enters our ocean from rivers globally.
In the next decade, we are set to triple global plastic production. Is this really the legacy that we want to leave behind?
It calls for collective action, we need a radical shift in how we think and how we use plastics. And it starts directly in our rivers, where we can still stop this disaster from destroying our planet and our health.
We need to focus on scalable solutions and implement them quickly. In 2 short years of running Sungai Watch, we have seen the potential for change by harnessing the power of community. In 2 short years of running Sungai Watch, we have already had to move some of our barriers because no more plastics are polluting those rivers due to growing public awareness about plastic pollution. It feels as if those rivers have officially “graduated” from our programs.
But we are destructing our planet, quicker than we can fix it. And now, we need to let our planet rest.
We have cleaned up some of the worst disaster relief areas. And when we fully restore these areas and let nature do its work. We have seen mangroves regrow. We have seen fish come back.
But cleaning up plastics is only half of the battle. Processing the trash and turning it into valuable products is a whole other game. So that is what we are doing. We are collecting, sorting, processing, treating, and recycling the trash that we collect.
What if we could sweep all the plastic out there and use it for good? Turn garbage into an economical incentive to fund back our cleanup programs.
Our next goal is to install 1,000 barriers throughout the world’s most polluted rivers but we can’t do this alone. There is a lot of work ahead of us and this is just the beginning, but I hope that everyone here today will join me in some small way on this lifelong journey against plastic pollution.
The little boy inside of me would have never dreamed once to become a garbage man doing everything in my power to make sure that we can win this plastic war. What a celebration it is to be here in the Philippines tonight!