The environmental watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition called for zero tolerance on littering soon after President Benigno S. Aquino III declared 2015 as the “Visit the Philippines Year” (VPY).
Last March 30, Pres. Aquino signed Proclamation 991 declaring the VPY in anticipation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Tourism Forum to be hosted by the Philippines in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
“The VPY presents a good platform to step up current efforts to tackle the widespread problem with littering and push for the honest-to-goodness enforcement of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which, among others, prohibits and penalizes littering,” stated Sonia Mendoza, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
“The litter that we see on the streets, bus stops, footbridges, parks, markets and waterways on ordinary days and more so during special festivities is a stark reminder of how pervasive littering as an environmental and social problem has become despite the adoption of R.A. 9003 and parallel local ordinances,” she observed.
“We need to turn the tide on litter now and not wait until we get the most embarrassing distinction of being the most-littered country in Asia and the world,” she added.
“The VPY is an opportune occasion for the national and local governments, together with other sectors of the society, to come together to reinforce ecological values, including responsible tourism, towards a litter-free Pilipinas that can be a source of national pride," she emphasized.
The EcoWaste Coalition has repeatedly drawn attention to the unimpeded littering on the streets described by the group as the most common environmental offense involving many members of the society, young and the old, as well as the rich and the poor.
The group, for instance, had many times scored litterbugs for befouling even faith-inspired activities such as the epic feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila and the Lenten penitential walk to Antipolo City, as well as the huge Mass at Rizal Park that concluded the recent pastoral and state visit of Pope Francis.
Mendoza called on the Department of Tourism and other concerned agencies to ensure that “care for the environment” is integrated into all programs and events being planned in observance of the VPY.
“We should not only prepare for a colorful and vibrant welcome for our visitors, domestic and foreign, but also ensure that they bring home beautiful images and stories of how we respect Mother Earth and take care of our surroundings,” she added.
Under the proclamation, “all other departments, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities of the National Government as well as Local Government Units are likewise enjoined to give full support and cooperation to the Department of Tourism,” the lead implementing agency for the VPY.
According to the proclamation, “there is a need to consolidate the activities and products of the public and private sectors into one calendar of events to showcase the outstanding work of Filipinos in music and arts, lifestyle and entertainment, sports and adventure, business, and history and culture as well as unveil the many historic treasures, natural wonders, and unforgettable adventures of the country.”