Face masks add to Philippines sea pollution

The azure waves in Philippines' Batangas province should be crystal clear.

Instead, they're now choked by plastic - another unwelcome side effect of the global health crisis.

Samantha Arnold has been diving in the area for about four years and is now picking up trash on her expeditions.

"The marine life has been able to take a break from us personally. However, they are getting inundated with a new source of trash, which is face masks, face shields and the bunny suits (PPE) that people are wearing."

Resort owner and diving instructor Carmela Sevilla said the masks were adding to plastic bags, diapers and packaging materials that plague local waters during the monsoon season.

While there is currently some separation of rubbish, she added that she thought there should be dedicated bins for pandemic-related trash.

'We will still keep seeing that because they just get blown away, they fall out of the hands of people and then often times, just really not disposed of properly, just like the plastic bags."

The Batangas tourism office said officials were aware of the issue and are spearheading clean-up drives.

A 2021 report by scientific online publication Our World in Data said the majority of ocean plastics around the world originates from rivers and coastlines.

Of that, 81 percent is from Asia, with a third of all Asian plastic coming from the Philippines alone.

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