Taking their cue from President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s speech commemorating the first death anniversary of his mother former President Cory Aquino where he cited the role of all citizens in fighting poverty and corruption, including “by disposing of our waste properly,” Zero waste advocates asked P-Noy to show the way towards a "litter-free Pilipinas".
As the La Niña weather phenomenon threatens the country with more rains beginning August, the EcoWaste Coalition urged P-Noy, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and other national and local officials to step up the anti-littering and anti-dumping drive to prevent city floods.
The waste and toxic watchdog pressed the authorities to act decisively against littering and flooding after the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) announced “above normal rainfall condition” with the onset of La Niña this month.
“We all know that littering clogs up Metro Manila’s drainage system, blocking inlets, canals and waterways and causing flooding or ponding, especially in low-lying areas,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
“With the participation of community groups and residents, we urge the national and local authorities to launch an all-out drive against litterbugs and pursue declogging operations before the next storm comes. Only by working together can we prevent flashfloods that are partly due to garbage-blocked drains ,” he said.
“We call upon both President Aquino and Environment Secretary Paje to lead the campaign for 'litter-free Pilipinas' and for truly clean and toxic-free communities. Littering is no small matter after all. It is the most obvious and most annoying, but often ignored, environmental crime in the country today,” Alvarez pointed out.
For her part, Eileen Sison, NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, said that “P-Noy’s fight against corruption and for a clean government should also include purging the system of wasteful practices such as littering and dumping. It was right for P-Noy to say that environmental carelessness, best exemplified by the pollution of Pasig River, is a form of corruption, too, that has to go.”
Littering, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, is a national issue that poses health risks, damages water quality, destroys wildlife habitat, creates a dirty and depressing environment, and eats lots of public funds for cleanup.
Forms of littering vary, from tossing candy wrappers, cigarette butts and spent chewing gums on the streets, disposing garbage into Pasig River and its tributaries, leaving discards along the beach, dog fouling to the discharge of spent motor oils and other hazardous liquids into storm drains and ultimately into Manila Bay, the EcoWaste Coalition explained.
Littering is, in fact, an environmental offense under Section 48 of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which prohibits the dumping of waste matters in public places such as roads, sidewalks, canals, esteros, parks and establishments.
Violators upon conviction can be fined P300-1,000 or render 1 to 15-day community service, or both, according to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9003.
Local government units (LGUs) have enacted ordinances to deter littering within their geographical jurisdictions, which have gone largely unimplemented in many areas due to the lack of political will and effective public education.
To guide the national and local authorities and the citizens in preventing floods and other problems due to mismanaged trash, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with some concrete anti-littering and anti-flooding proposals.
These proposals were contributed by the Alaga Lahat, Ayala Foundation, Citizens Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives and the Mother Earth Foundation.
These include organizing anti-littering, declogging and cleanup activities, installing closed-circuit television (CCTV) in littering hotspots, partnering with the informal waste sector for the recovery of recyclables, avoiding plastic bags and other single-use disposables and enforcing ecological solid waste management at all levels.
I. For the National Government:
a. Embark on a nationwide, year-long anti-littering and anti-dumping drive led by the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), which is under the Office of the President and chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
b. Fund the installation of CCTVs in littering hotspots to identify, shame and penalize litterbugs with community service such as estero cleanup.
c. Adopt and enforce Zero Waste policy nationwide, including the implementation of best environmental practices in solid waste management minus open dumping, open burning and incineration.
II. For the Local Government Units:
a. Launch creative campaigns to rid our streets, creeks and rivers of litter that blights the environment and harm public health and the local economy.
b. Enjoin all government agencies, schools, churches, businesses and civic groups to promote and support the anti-littering campaign.
c. Enforce zero littering policy in all outdoor assemblies - be it for political, religious, commercial, health and fitness or simply fun activities. LGUs should strive to make all communy fiestas and other festive events Zero Waste.
d. Immediately start declogging operations with the involvement of concerned community groups and residents.
e. Mobilize all barangay councils in municipality or city-wide cleanup drive with resource retrieval and recycling components.
f. Partner with the informal waste sector for the systematic and safe recovery of recyclable materials from the municipal waste stream.
g. Comply with the mandatory requirements of RA 6716 for the establishment of rainwater collection and harvesting systems.
h. Initiate the transfer of toxic industries, including hazardous waste treaters, to less flood-prone areas to prevent the dispersal of harmful substances in case of flooding.
III. For Households and Individuals:
a. Set a good example for others, especially the young children, by not littering.
b. Discourage others from littering by politely explaining the consequences of their actions.
c. Avoid using plastic bags and other single-use disposable items.
d. Reduce your waste size by separating your discards at source, reusing , recycling and composting them.
e. Hold on to your rubbish such as bus tickets, food wrappers and cigarette filters until you have found a waste bin.
f. Do not throw litter out of cars. Place a litter bag in your vehicle to collect your litter until a waste bin is available.
g. Do not throw hazardous discards such as mercury-containing lamps and batteries in regular trash.
h. Do not leave your trash out by the road for collection.
i. For chewing gum consumers: “you chew it, you must bin it.”
j. For smokers: “no butts, bin it.”
k. For pet owners: “don’t give your dog a bad name, pick up after them ."