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Feature: Keeping the clean

Local officials, beach resort owners, residents, surfers, and environmentalists have banded together to promote local surfing and environmental protection to preserve the coastal area of San Juan town in La Union and other surfing sites in the country.

Stakeholders led by San Juan Mayor Ruben Valero Jr. have joined the Green Zinc Clean Shores Philippines Inc., a non-government organization, to raise funds and educate residents of coastal villages and tourists to help clean up the beach and control marine pollution caused by raw sewage from households.

Danish citizen Uffe Konig, 67, co-owner of the Little Surfmaid Resort in Barangay Urbiztondo, San Juan, said Green Zinc helps promote environmental consciousness among residents and local and foreign tourists who go to San Juan to learn how to surf.

“San Juan, which is about five hours’ drive from Manila, has become a favorite tourist destination in the north in the past several years because of the unending waves that made the coastal town famous for surfing,” said Konig.

He said Little Surfmaid, like other resorts in San Juan such as Sebay Resort Hotel, San Juan Surf Resort, and Monaliza Resort, offers surfing lessons to beginners.

Konig, a former official of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), is also the liaison officer of Green Zinc Clean Shores, which is devoted to keep the beaches of the Philippines clean and beautiful. Konig, Australian expat Chris Sullivan, presidential daughter Luli Arroyo, and Luigi Bernas organized Green Zinc in 2007.

Sullivan, Green Zinc president, said the group coordinates with the local government and residents to raise awareness, organize volunteers to clean up the beach, and raise funds to help communities sustain their own commitment to clean the shoreline.

The organization has donated a garbage truck and trash bins for the beach. It spearheads the fund-raising drive through the sale of Green Zinc t-shirts and getting corporate sponsors for surfing tournaments.

Sullivan, who is also a surfer, said Green Zinc has coordinated with the La Union Surf Club, which is composed of 70 local surfing instructors, to clean up the beach every Friday.

He said they would also construct public toilets with running water and septic tanks that local settlers could use to prevent the dumping of raw sewage into the South China Sea.

Arroyo, external relations officer of Green Zinc, said the group is now embarking on an information campaign to further educate the residents of San Juan and other coastal villages to be concerned about the preservation of the environment.

Aside from San Juan, she said the organization also targets Siargao in Surigao del Norte, Baler in Aurora, Daet in Camarines Norte, Zambales and other surfing areas in the country.

“If they (residents) don’t take care of the beach, it’s their loss. The local community is the main component and the project will only be successful if the local government unit and the local community invest their effort in it,” said Arroyo, who has been surfing for the past four years.

Sullivan said the San Juan municipal government has recognized Green Zinc’s efforts by giving the organization the Baratao Award last Dec. 27 for “providing sustainable development along the surfing area in Barangay Urbiztondo, (which) vis-a-vis solid waste management, clean-up activities and tourism-related projects, is a priceless contribution and meritorious support in the development of the municipality of San Juan to be a better place to live in and as a world-class tourist destination.”

Lemon Dines, president of the La Union Surf Club, said the surfing instructors do not only teach tourists how to surf, but also remind them to keep the beach clean.

Omar Gandabali, a surfing instructor and official of the Little Surfmaid Resort, said local and foreign surfers as well as residents have become more conscious of the environment since the surfing club joined the clean-up program. (news and photo from philstar.com)


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