As the country’s waste law enters its 14th year today, some 50 members of the EcoWaste Coalition trooped to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) calling for an expedited enforcement and full implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (R.A. 9003) in the midst of worsening waste woes and emerging quick fix solutions disguised as “green” technologies in the country.
Two basket loads of quick fixes carried by the horse – 1) waste-to-energy burning technologies and incinerators, and 2) dumpsites and landfills – demonstrate the hurdles that slow down the law’s enforcement and impede its full implementation.
“Despite being signed into law by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on 26 January 2001, R.A. 9003 clearly suffers from similar languid implementation that we see in other inadequately enforced environmental laws,” lamented Ochie Tolentino, Vice President of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“In this year of the horse, we need ‘big leap’ towards real solutions to our mounting garbage problems instead of promoting band aid solutions that are obstructive to the mandate of the law that promises a healthy and sustainable environment,” a hopeful Tolentino added.
“The 13 year old law apparently has not developed into maturity despite its age as evidenced by the wanton violations of its major provisions everywhere,” she said.
R.A. 9003 provides for a comprehensive and eco-friendly approach to managing discards mainly through waste prevention, reduction, segregation at source, reuse, recycling and composting, excluding waste incineration.
It specifically requires the country’s over 42,000 barangays to develop ecological solid waste management programs, promote waste separation at source, enforce a segregated collection for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, and establish Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in every barangay or cluster of barangays.
The EcoWaste Coalition argued that despite the law’s mandate for the closure of all open dumps by February of 2004 and controlled dumps by February 2006, close to 1,000 open and controlled dumps remain in operation.
The data, the EcoWaste Coalition clarifies, do not include “guerilla” dumps often seen in street corners and vacant lots.
“Considering the waste crisis the country is in today, we are racing against time to put in place genuine solutions to our garbage problems with national waste generation of 12 million tons per year, and still expected to increase as the population breaches 100 million,” Tolentino exclaimed.
“We urge the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) and all local government units and sectors of the society to pursue ecological solutions to the garbage crisis and progress towards Zero Waste to rid our communities of foul-smelling dumps and toxics-emitting incinerators, and instead bring in green jobs and livelihood opportunities from clean recycling for our people, especially the waste pickers,” she stated.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, “the law stresses waste avoidance and volume reduction through the adoption of best practices in ecological waste management, but the mindset favoring quick fix solutions that are costly, resource-destructive and climate-damaging sanitary landfills and incinerators persists in most of our public officials, which indirectly tolerates continuous wasteful habits.”
“We therefore urge the government to be serious about implementing the law. The R.A. 9003 anniversaries would come and go, but unless serious political will is employed against violators, the event would always just come and go,” the group said.