Anna Dawson from New Zealand is in Ilocos Norte, on the last leg of her journey biking 2000kms along the Philippines coasts. The aim of the cycle was to raise awareness about the threat of plastic on human and ocean health.
She has been working and volunteering in the Philippines since 2008. A few years ago she and her husband sailed from their home country of New Zealand, to the Philippines and became more aware of how plastic pollution is adversely affecting the marine environment. In 2015, Anna became a mother and was inspired to do something to help the environment for her now 1-year-old son.
Over the course of the 2000km journey Anna managed to unite thousands of volunteers from around the country, collecting hundreds of sacks of plastic from the coastal areas she visited. Beach clean ups were a big part of the cycle tour, used as a platform to start discussions on reducing plastic.
Education is one of the key ingredients in this fight against ocean trash. Along the way, Anna delivered presentations to hundreds of people, mostly students but also to business owners. “The key message was to reduce, reduce, reduce, single use plastic consumption! We each have the power to make a difference.” Anna said.
She met dozens of people around the country who believe in her advocacy and have also been doing their part to preserve our environment. People like ZedrikAvecilla, also an avid sailor and one of the key organizers in the International Coastal Cleanup Philippines in Zambales together with Rear Admiral Gerry Reyes PCGA, the Country Manager for the ICC Philippines. “By 2050 scientists predict there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. This is a threat not only to marine life, but also to us. Plastic is now entering our food chain and we don’t fully understand the effects of this,” says Mr. Reyes. “We salute people like Anna who chose to take a stand to protect our environment for future generations. We need more people like her. She is truly an inspiration.” Mr. Avecilla said.
One of the highlights of this journey for Anna was a clean up in Manila Bay facilitated with the help of the Philippines Coastguard Auxiliary (PCGA), Metro Manila Development Association, and the Department of Public Services. “Beach clean up’s are nothing new”, says Dawson, “The PCGA and his team have been doing these for decades. The Philippines had the biggest turn out in the world for International Coastal Cleanup Day in 2015, that’s amazing. However beyond this we really have to focus on how to reduce plastic usage.”
20,000 plastic straws were collected by the hundreds of volunteers during the clean up marathon event. This has inspired Anna to work on banning straws around the country in 2017 as well as setting up a formal Non-Government Organisation to tackle plastic pollution at the source. “I’m committed to working on this global issue in New Zealand and the Philippines,” says Dawson. “The challenges are considerable, but not insurmountable. It will be great to have clean coasts and a healthy ocean again in the future. While beach cleanups alone can’t solve the ocean trash problem, they are an integral piece to the overall solution. It may seem like an impossible task. But as long as there are people willing to make a change, there will always be a chance for a better tomorrow.”
If you want to support this campaign you can follow the initiatives by Dawson and her counterparts on Facebook @plasticfreephili. Alternatively see more information about the journey on the website www.plasticfreephilippines.com.