By Hector Zabala
EVERYONE remembers the day Typhoon ‘Ondoy’ hit the country in September 2009. In just 12 hours, it brought down 17 inches of rain equivalent to a month’s worth of rainfall in one day. Within just a few days, ‘Ondoy’ put the country in distress flooding streets and neighborhoods, submerging cars and crops, and overflowing two dams.
The devastation brought about by ‘Ondoy’ served as a wake up call for Metro Pacific Investments Foundation (MPIF), the lead advocate for coastal community engagement of the MVP group of companies, to start an environmental awareness program that aims to transform people to be responsible for their garbage and improve the deteriorating condition of our coastline.
Melody del Rosario, MPIF President, said: “Our coastal environment is deteriorating because of climate change, pollution and overfishing. We had to start somewhere. And with the Philippines surrounded with bodies of water, underwater and coastal clean-up, together with marine life conservation, became a good starting point for us to institutionalize Shore it Up! as a program.”
As they say, the rest was history.
A decade of commitments
Now entering its 10th year of foundation, a series of activities called #ShoreItUpNa10 was launched to celebrate its milestones. Shore It Up! (SIU) program has grown leaps and bounds in terms of institutions, foundations, organizations, civic groups and scuba diving teams willing to help, act and work together to restore and revive the coastal environments of various provinces nationwide.
From the time it started in 2009, SIU’s foothold has increased with project sites nationwide and has evolved into more than just coastal/underwater clean-up for its community involvement activities. It continued to forge ahead with Mangrove Protection and Information Centers, Mangrove Eco-Guides, Marine Protection, Inspection and Conservation Guardians, Junior Environmental Scouts—all adopting the relevant mantra of ‘Rescue, Restore, Revive’.
Today, SIU is considered the country’s longest-running, corporate-backed environment program that partners with local government units (LGUs) for the sustainability of its projects. The partner venues are coastal municipalities such as in Alaminos, Pangasinan; Mabini, Batangas; Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro; Cordova, Cebu; Del Carmen, Siargao; Medina, Misamis Oriental and the Province of Surigao Del Norte.
Since the program was first launched in Anilao Batangas in 2009, it has already removed significant amount of garbage and debris from the coastal areas of these municipalities and provinces.
“Shore It Up undertakes environmental issues in a holistic manner,” explained Del Rosario. “We believe that for our environmental ecosystem to work, various marine and coastal support must be sustained with livelihood programs and proper education on environmental awareness,” Del Rosario said.
What is unique about SIU is that it provides an opportunity for civic volunteers to take part in various activities on top of cleaning the country’s coastlines. MPIF/MPIC management executives and staff and its owned companies, families, academic institutions, environmentalists, scientists, LGUs and tourism stakeholders participated in the coastal and underwater clean-up campaigns.
Growing number of volunteers
As part of its 10th year celebration, a groundbreaking ceremony of a Mangrove Propagation and Information Center in Cordova Cebu—the third mangrove center since SIU was launched—was held early this month.
Catered for the Visayas area, the center completes the nationwide position of Shore It Up in helping to rescue, restore and revive the mangroves. The two other centers are located in Alaminos, Pangasinan, and Del Carmen, Surigao Del Norte.
The center will train mangrove Eco-Guides to tour and educate tourists visiting the area on basic information on mangroves. It will also be used as a venue for mangrove rehabilitation and conservation training.
Another highlight of its decade-long of existence is the participation of 300 public school children from coastal communities of Cordova ages between 9-11 in this year’s Junior Environmental Scouts (JES). They will be taught how to identify environmental problems and how to help to rescue, restore and revive their coastal community.
For the first time since it started, SIU and the LGU partner are assigning a JES Master who will coordinate the activities of JES in the municipality. The JES Master supervises the regular activities of JES as identified and instructed in their workbook and submits a report to Shore it Up.
As part of its objective of preserving marine protected areas (MPAs), SIU also created a program in partnership with local government units (LGUs) to train bantay-dagat volunteers to become Marine Protection, Inspection and Conservation (MPIC) Guardians. There are about 1,871 MPAs in the country today.
As part of its 10th year celebration, graduation of new MPIC Guardians in Medina, Misamis Oriental was held last March 4, including the turn-over of monitoring equipment. MPIC Guardians were trained by SIU and PNP Maritime on coastal law enforcement, water search and rescue and basic first aid.
As part of the ‘Shore it Up weekend’ from March 2-4, simultaneous coastal clean-up to six (6) partner municipalities and three (3) provinces were successfully conducted. Schools, private organizations and government offices supported this nationwide activity.
For its environmental preservation efforts, SIU bagged several Award of Merits during the yearly Anvil Awards of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines.
MPIF was established in 2008 with the mandate to implement programs designed to benefit communities, organizations, families and individuals, especially in areas where MPIC companies operate.
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