The Philippines

flotsam and jetsam

Kumusta from El Nido, 

   Three or four world travellers exchanging pleasantries in El Nido, The Philippines : “The beaches are so clean.” This is an unarguable contention; a reflection of the fact that there’s no garbage apparently washing up here. The inference – a perfectly justifiable one – is that there is a lot of plastic detritus washing up on many other beaches around the world. The next bit is what I don’t get. “They must clean them.” 

Nacpan Beach

   There is a fundamental ignorance at work here. Before humans started manufacturing and discarding non-degradable objects, beaches were pristine. The rubbish washes up when careless humans dispose of their waste into waterways. There is some debate about whether or not most is thrown into rivers or oceans, but in any case it ends up in the sea. Some of it ends up on beaches.

     If a beach is clear of plastic rubbish, maybe it’s because no-one was careless in that area. Maybe it has never been spoiled by human waste. Something which has never been dirty doesn’t need to be cleaned.

Palawan, The Philippines

     Here in picturesque Palawan, in The Philippines, local government rules proscribe the use of plastic straws. Everyone knows why. Most food is consumed on a reusable plate or banana leaf and takeaway containers are cardboard. Single-use plastics are here but in nothing like the profusion that’s common everywhere else. Boat traffic is heavily regulated. And the beaches are almost completely devoid of flotsam and jetsam. The locals are practising prevention rather than cure. Why isn’t this obvious to an observant, educated, worldly traveller?

The Filippinos are solving the problem at its root, rather than expending energy on solving the problem when it is too late.

Linda in the hammock – between swims and smoothies

    This is preventative action which is not borne only of a shrewd economic concern. Yes, they are protecting a priceless economic asset (now that the tourists have discovered this beautiful place) but they don’t want to soil their own nests. They’re not so greedy or ignorant that they will despoil the very asset which makes their lives so good in the first place; a valuable lesson here for the rest of the world.

prevention vs cure

     If a roaming traveller thinks the beaches are clean because they have been cleaned, they are commenting on how unclean the beaches are elsewhere – maybe even in their own home countries. When it comes to a sustainable environment, prevention is far better than cure. The Filippinos don’t need to travel the world to recognise such a simple maxim. Yet another example of the East teaching the West?
Paalam from El Nido


Other photos from hereabouts

lolling in the bay
the bay hidden from the surf

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