Sacks, rakes and gloves will be a common sight this weekend as the nation celebrates the 26th International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day today (Sept. 17).

In Metro Manila, more than 5,000 volunteers representing various government agencies and offices, the academe, civic organizations and civil society are expected to join the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in collecting marine debris washed onto the shores of Freedom and Long Islands in Brgy. San Dionisio in Parañaque City. The cleanup site is a portion of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA).

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said that despite regular and organized cleanup activities conducted throughout the year, the ICC Day celebration gives Filipinos “a feeling of unity with the rest of the world in cleaning up our oceans and other water bodies.”

ICC Day is an annual global effort organized by Washington-based Ocean Conservancy to remove trash and debris from beaches and waterways, and aims to change human behaviors that allow the waste to reach the ocean.

In the Philippines, ICC Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of September, as declared through Presidential Proclamation No. 470. On the other hand, Presidential Proclamation No. 244 also declared the month of September as National Cleanup Month.

Each year, the DENR mobilizes all its field offices nationwide to lead and coordinate sectors interested in joining the celebration, even as the number of volunteers has multiplied steadily. Aside from collecting trash along the beaches, volunteers also clean up stream and river banks, while some diving organizations collect underwater trash.

Joining the cleanup activities are Mayors Florencio Bernabe Jr. of Parañaque City and Vergel Aguilar of Las Piñas City, as well as Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino.

Paje said that aside from sending warm bodies for the cleanup itself, “many of our partner agencies also offer for free their services and equipment such as dump trucks, fire trucks, medical personnel, portalets and other logistics for the volunteers.”

The environment chief, however, scored the volume of trash collected in the Philippines which ranked among the highest as indicated in Ocean Conservancy’s 2010 marine debris index.

“Last year, our volunteers picked up some 240,360 kilograms of debris from both land and water in only one day. How much more trash is there that make their way into our seas for the rest of the year?” he lamented.

Ocean Conservancy’s 2011 Report ranked the Philippines second to the United States in its “25-Year Top Ten Participating Countries” with 2,907,608 volunteers. Last year saw 145,733 volunteers signing up for ICC Day.

This year’s theme, “Trash Free Seas,” highlights the pollution problem caused by ocean trash, and the threat of marine debris to human health, wildlife, communities and economies worldwide.