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Meet the ASEAN Youth Eco-Champion from Ilocos Sur

Known for his passion for marine conservation – from starting a mere cleanup drive in 2021 to generating various sustainable solutions against ocean pollution, Adem Marione Inovejas, Founder and Executive Director of Project Blue (PB) Ilocos now PB Philippines, has helped communities and influenced thousands with his noble causes.

Adem Marione Inovejas poses for a photo opportunity after receiving recognition from the ASEAN in Vientiane, Lao PDR. (Photo courtesy: Adem Inovejas)

This young visionary was recognized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau as one of its Youth Envi Icon in 2022 and as a finalist in 2021, and recently by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) having received the ASEAN Youth Eco-Champions Award (AYECA) in the 18-25 age group during the 17th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

Inovejas was the first awardee from Luzon and the second awardee from the Philippines in the junior category with Val Amiel Vestil, the Executive Director of the Association of Young Environmental Journalists, from Mindanao, as the first Filipino awardee in 2019.

“I’ve had the opportunity to showcase our efforts at Project Blue PH to our Southeast Asian friends and I’m very excited to see what lies ahead in the future for the country and the region’s environment… Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to receive a national award, let alone an international one, and I am beyond words,” Inovejas said in an online post.

With his background in Mechanical Engineering, as a graduating student at De La Salle University-Manila, he was able to collaborate with more than 200 youth from the country and craft and produce 15 ‘Sustaina-boats’ or plastic bottle boats serving 12 communities from four provinces. 

“From what started as a passion project, we have already reached more than 350,000 people on social media, directly impacted more than 25,000 Filipinos with our projects and awareness campaigns, collaborated with more than 200 youth from the country and the ASEAN region to contribute to our cause, and have repurposed almost 4,000 pieces of discarded PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles,” he said.

Through the P100,000 grant from the provincial government of Ilocos Sur in December 2022, he led a team of Engineering students who simultaneously designed Eco-life vests, dubbed “Ahon” and a floating fish cage, dubbed “AquaCatch” made of plastic bottles.

Apart from these innovative projects, he also led partnerships with 10 schools and business establishments in the first district of the province as areas for bottle collections, hence, raising awareness among students and the public in general on Project Blue PH’s sustainable innovations related to repurposing plastic trash.

Cleanup and turn-over of trash bins in a community in Ilocos Sur (Photo courtesy: Project Blue PH)
Adem Inovejas with three children who are members of an Indigenous Peoples community riding on a "Sustaina-boat" in Tarlac (Photo courtesy: Project Blue PH)
Project Blue PH executives and members, led by Adem Inovejas, wearing Eco-life vests and showing the floating fish cage. (Photo Courtesy: Project Blue PH)

“We also focus on awareness campaigns kasi nage-educational tour kami. Iyong approach namin sa ocean pollution, sa environment in general, is in a holistic and multidisciplinary way na we don’t just raise awareness on education but we also do product development, engage with the community, and give jobs kasi iyong mga nag-manufacture ng mga life vests are mothers of children with disabilities in Quezon City, at mga carpenters naman namin ay men at fishermen. May youth empowerment din kasi we’re volunteers. We’re doing it for a cause and the vision for Project Blue PH is to slowly shift to a social enterprise focused on doing research design and development of eco products,” Inovejas said.

Witnessing the constant support and dynamic participation of the youth and the communities, he then attributed the recognition he received to his fellow youth leaders and volunteers' efforts as he would have been unable to implement these projects alone.

“We are able to do it and I was not able to just do it alone but I was able to help and empower young people like me in the process. I just really enjoy doing something I’m passionate about – engineering, engaging with people, and starting partnerships… The best part about working with fellow young people, we all grow together at the same time I grow as a leader and as a person. Besides making new friends, mas nag-eexpand iyong horizon and the way I think,” he said.

Adem Inovejas (2nd from Left) shares a smile with his fellow ASEAN Youth Eco-Champions Awardees in the 18-25 age group. (Photo Courtesy: Adem Inovejas)

At only 19 years old, Inovejas founded Project Blue PH, and looking back at the challenges he faced as a youth leader, not to mention the criticisms Project Blue PH received as a start-up non-profit organization, he said he was just beyond grateful that he’s able to help provide simple solutions because even though these are the hardest to achieve yet they impact the most.

“This is what drives me to keep doing it – use your heart to find the problem or something you’re passionate about then use your mind to form the solution for it. Work hand-in-hand with your heart and mind, don’t choose one,” he said.

Recognizing the support from the ASEAN, the DENR, all the government agencies/offices, private sectors, and each person who acknowledged his contributions and supported his endeavors in protecting and preserving the environment, he ended, “collaboration is what we need to create the biggest impact that we can with the limited time and resources that we have.”

Inovejas and all the other youths stepping up and working together are some of the testaments that anyone of any age can make an impact and that any goal is feasible how easy or challenging it may be.

Truly an inspiration to the youth! (JCR/MJTAB/JMCQ, PIA Ilocos Sur)

About the Author

Joyah Mae Quimoyog


Region 1

A writer based in the heritage province of Ilocos Sur.

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