Environmental issues have been a long-standing concern not only in the Philippines, but all over the world. Here in our country, we have numerous laws that deal with the environment, with some dating back to the 1970s. But 40 years hence, our environment seems to be in no better state.
Humans live like there is no tomorrow, like all resources are infinite, like the Earth can take all the pollution we produce. We have been so busy surviving that we have forgotten how it is to live. We have adopted a throwaway culture, putting to waste things that could otherwise be reused for another purpose.
A 2016 report, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, showed that the world produced 20 times more plastic in 2014, about 311 million tonnes, than it did in 1964 at only 15 million tonnes. At this rate, oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050.
Plastic bags are ubiquitous components of the world's consumer culture. They symbolize the throwaway culture that we have developed.
The Philippines is one of the top contributors of plastic trash dumped into the sea. According to Ocean Conservancy, the Philippines, together with China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, spew out as much as 60 percent of the plastic waste that enters the world's seas.
This is the unfortunate truth despite our existing law on solid waste management, considered one of the best in the world.
In 2001, Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Act, was enacted. Since then, as the law's author I have been advocating for its faithful compliance by the national and local governments.
The measure aims to create a clean and healthy environment using a system of solid waste management that includes segregation of garbage at source, segregated transportation, processing, treatment and proper disposal of solid waste. It emphasizes recycling so that minimal residual garbage is actually brought to the sanitary landfill. It bans open dumpsites, the use of incinerators, and burning of waste. It promotes the environment-friendly disposal of solid waste.
Sixteen years have passed since it was enacted. We have yet to achieve 100% compliance by local government units (LGUs), but many communities have already embraced the law.
San Fernando City in Pampanga is a model city with all its 35 barangays having their own materials recovery facility (MRF).
In the Municipality of San Francisco of the Camotes Group of Islands in the Visayas Region, residents exercised vigilance in implementing segregation at source--strictly enforcing the "no trash segregation-no collection" policy, recycling, composting and the collection of payment for carbon taxes, which are based on the amount of domestic waste produced from day to day.
Barangay Potrero in Malabon City won the Metro Manila Development Authority's Best Solid Waste Management Program Award 2015 for its exemplary implementation of the ESWM Law. It strictly implements "Door-to-Door" and "No Segregation, No Collection" policies.
In terms of law enforcement, the Office of the Ombudsman is leading the effort.
The Environmental Ombudsman has filed cases against non-compliant LGUs, particularly those that still operate open dumpsites, have not built MRFs, do not implement segregation at source, and have not submitted a 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan.
These are only some of the initiatives being undertaken to eventually reach full compliance with the law. But I also wish to encourage everyone, every person, every household, every institution to do their respective share in implementing the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law.
The heart of the ESWM Law is its inherent purpose towards a paradigm shift, a change to a low carbon, zero waste lifestyle. That is why segregation at source is among the main facets of the law because implementation must start in our own homes.
As the author of the law, I practice what I preach. In my home and in my office, I practice waste segregation and recycling. I do my own compost from food waste to fertilize my backyard vegetable gardens and I have my own rainwater collector, which I use to water plants. These are simple and inexpensive ways to live a sustainable lifestyle. All of us here can do the same.
I hope that in this Conference, we will get to hear more good practices so that we can encourage more people, communities and institutions to adopt the zero waste concept through inspiration and emulation.
It is said that a great movement may be born?in the minds of a few, but it must be spoken by the mouths of many, and must?be carried on the shoulders of all--of every woman, man and child.
Each of us has opportunities to make a difference for our future. We must take hold of the opportunity to responsibly manage our environment. Let us veer away from the throwaway culture. Let us make the Earth a sustainable, safe and healthy planet for all of us and for the future generations.
Source: Senate of the Philippines