Manila. At the launch of the first “Zero Waste Month” during the “Zero Waste Youth Convergence 2015” held today at the Philippine Normal University, Sen. Loren Legarda joined several environmental groups led by the Mother Earth Foundation in calling on the government for an expedited enforcement and full implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) amidst increasing garbage problems and emerging quick fix solutions concealed as “green” technologies in the country.
Holding a banner that read “Go for Zero Waste: Burn Not, Trash Not Our Future,” Legarda was joined by more than 400 youth students from different universities and colleges all over the country, as well as environmental groups EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, and Mother Earth Foundation.
“We have some of the most beautiful environmental laws in the world. Republic Act 9003 was well thought of and was debated exhaustively when it was passed in 2001. We should try to implement it first before we try any of these alternative technologies like incineration that will only endanger the health of our people and our planet,” said Senator Loren Legarda during a Hearing of Joint Oversight Committee on RA 9003.
“As long as I am the Environment Committee Chairman, any law that allow incineration will not pass in the Senate,” the senator added.
President Benigno S. Aquino III on May last year signed Proclamation No. 760, declaring every January as “Zero Waste Month.”
The Proclamation states that, “zero waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”
It added that “zero waste is an advocacy that promotes designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, and to conserve and recover all resources, and not indiscriminately dispose or burn them.”
The government must see to it that low cost, ecological and sustainable non-burn technologies are supported and that the incineration ban under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) and the Clean Air Act (RA 8749) is upheld.
These laws are now being threatened by regressive legislative bills currently filed in both the Senate and House of Representatives seeking to allow the use of incinerators to burn municipal, bio-medical and hazardous wastes, including the recently passed House Resolution No. 21, which, upon its effectivity, will suspend the operability of the Clean Air Act as the President will be given emergency powers to address the projected electricity shortage in the Luzon Grid.
“This yearly observance would be meaningless unless the main government agencies assigned to implement and enforce the law perform their mandated tasks faithfully. It is important that the youth join other sectors in holding these agencies accountable,” said Von Hernandez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Our vision of a zero waste society is possible, but without political will at the national and local levels, this will become another empty government slogan,” he added.
This month also marks the 14th year since RA 9003 was signed into law by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001.
RA 9003 provides for a comprehensive and ecological approach to managing garbage 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, encourage 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.
According to Froilan Grate, President, Mother Earth Foundation, “many communities are reaping health and economic benefits from successfully implementing RA 9003,” citing various Zero Waste Community models in San Fernando, Pampanga; Alaminos, Pangasinan; Nueva Vizcaya; Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City; and Malabon City that are currently incorporating Zero Waste schemes in their localities.
“It takes political will to fully implement the fourteen-year law in order to realize sustainable, long-term benefits and gross incompetence to settle for other hastily contrived alternatives that offer temporary solutions to our waste problems, which may even lead to catastrophic situations in the future,” he added.