Duterte’s Push for Trash-Free Localities Gains Support from Green Groups

Environmental health activists have echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s call on local authorities to clean up the ubiquitous trash in areas under their jurisdiction, lamenting that the garbage problem has persisted due to the lack of political will in implementing the ecological solid waste management law.

Last Friday, Duterte scored local government officials over the all-pervasive garbage in many cities and municipalities across the archipelago.  

“Many localities in the country are so dirty and yet the mayors are not doing anything about it.  There is trash and garbage around and if you have to wait for the plastic to go inside the drainage every time there’s downpour and excessive rainwater, nagka-clog,” the President said. .

“We empathize with President Duterte’s comments regarding the filthy state of our surroundings that is sadly becoming a rule rather than an exception.  If you look around, there is litter all over from tiny cigarette butts to the omnipresent plastic bags,” stated Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“By his words, we can see how upset he is with the dismal failure of many officials in fulfilling their responsibilities to prevent and reduce garbage that has obviously spilled into the streets, storm drains, rivers and into the oceans,” she added.

“We hope that he will follow this up with marching orders at his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) that will instruct national and local government officials to faithfully enforce R.A. 9003 towards a basura-free republic where our children can safely grow, play and live,” she said. 

Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, is a major environmental legislation that provides a framework for managing discards primarily through waste prevention, reduction, segregation at source, reuse, recycling and composting, excluding open burning and incineration.

Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation, explained that “R.A. 9003. a decentralization law, devolves solid waste management down to the smallest unit of government, the barangay.  It can be implemented with the full support of the municipal or city mayor. It mandates source segregation, segregated collection, segregated waste destination and the establishment of a materials recovery facility (MRF) in every barangay or cluster of barangays.”

The activists stressed that the President’s stinging remarks should spur lazy and negligent public officials to abandon their lethargic approach in implementing the law, which many environmentalists worldwide have hailed as a model for responsibly managing society’s discards.

“It is often said that the Philippines has some of the best and forward looking environmental laws in the world.  The tragedy is that many of these laws remain lamentably unimplemented, often undermined by corruption and myopia on the part of government officials responsible for enforcing them,” said Von Hernandez of Greenpeace.

“It is scandalous that local governments are wasting billions of pesos on waste management approaches that only exacerbate the problem of environmental pollution through dumpsites, landfills and so-called waste-to-energy facilities, when in fact the safe, simple and inexpensive solutions to this problem already exist in our statutes,” he added.

“With Secretary Gina Lopez now at the helm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Solid Waste Management Commission, we hope that the Duterte administration will  seriously apply its hard-nosed and no nonsense approach in  mainstreaming Zero Waste solutions to liberate our cities and towns from waste and pollution,” the groups said.

Zero Waste solutions, according to the groups, turn discards into resources that can generate sustainable jobs and livelihood opportunities for marginalized families, particularly those from the informal waste sector.

Recycling, reuse, composting and other Zero Waste strategies conserve resources and energy while support community self-reliance and development.

The implementation of Zero Waste solutions will reduce the volume of discards requiring final disposal and eradicate the need for costly waste burners, including waste-to-energy incinerators, which emit dioxins, mercury and greenhouse gases, among many other toxic pollutants, the groups said.