EFEManila

Beauty queens, government officials, students and local residents joined a mass clean-up effort Friday morning on the coast of Freedom Island, Metro Manila, to mark Earth Day.

Around 700 people congregated on the island, also known as the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, which is a haven for migratory birds and marine life, and a natural shield against typhoons.

But the important and picturesque ecological area is threatened by garbage that washes up there from Metro Manila.

Armed with gloves and sacks, volunteers got to work sifting through the piles of trash that litter the coastline.

Among those in attendance was Senator Cynthia Villar and Miss Philippines Earth 2015 Angelia Gabrena Ong, who serves as an ambassador for environmental protection campaigns in the country.

Candidates hoping to take the crown in this year's Miss Philippines Earth competition also joined the event.

Participants today created a piece of nature-inspired art, hand-painting leaves onto the image of a bare tree trunk.

Earth Day is celebrated annually around the world on Apr. 22 to raise awareness about environmental issues.

It is being organized this year under the theme 'Trees for the Earth', with the aim of planting 7.8 billion trees by 2020 when Earth Day celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Deforestation is a major environmental issue in the Philippines, which lost one-third of its forest cover between 1990 and 2005, according to estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization.