Urgent solutions in a changed climate


Urgent solutions in a changed climate


Posted 04 July 2011, by , Inquirer News (Cebu Daily News), newsinfo.inquirer.net

A year after assuming office, how does President Benigno Aquino III and his administration, including the local government units, score in green leadership scorecard?

“For sure, there were some environmental pronouncements and initiatives during the past 12 months,” noted Roy Alvarez, President of EcoWaste Coalition.

Over 50 groups affiliated with the EcoWaste Coalition gave the Executive Department under P-Noy an overall grade of 2.65 points out of 10, “for not showing decisive interest, leadership and action in preventing and reducing garbage and all its attendant problems.”

Plastic is a huge problem,  as shown by recurring floods.  The National Solid Waste Management Commission, which is under the Office of the President, has failed to call for public hearings and list the non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAPs), as mandated by R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

EcoWaste Coalition challenged the President to chair at least one full meeting of the Commission,  “secure its budget and set its direction, prioritizing the calling for public consultation” in coming up with the list of NEAPs.

Citizens from Cebu have sent the commission a second Notice to Sue in June to pressure it to move swiftly. Because of the commission’s default,  local government units have to craft local ordinances to ban or regulate plastic.

Muntinlupa City is trail-blazing as the first highly urbanized city to ban plastics in the Philippines. The result is amazing. While the rest of Metro Manila residents again waded in the water-filled streets last month, Muntinlupa remained flood–free.  Its mayor, Aldrin San Pedro, was pleasantly surprised that “the anticipated flooding in some parts of the city did not happen, with rainwater flowing freely through canals and waterways and making their way to Laguna de Bay. Mayor San Pedro cited Muntinlupa’s landmark ban on plastics and polysterene containers, which was implemented early this year, as among the factors that kept the city free from flooding.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 25, 2011)

In Barrio Luz, flooding is never a problem according to Ronnie Saba, administrator of the award-winning barangay, Cebu City’s pride that is now headed by the equally active Kap Rian Tante. The open secret is their much-admired participatory environmental management. The constituents have learned to assume full responsibility for their waste, effectively transforming the garbage crisis into  livelihood opportunities in partnership with the city, business sector and civil society.

We commend the  Cebu City government under Mayor Mike Rama’s stewardship for instilling discipline in waste management through the “no segregation, no collection” policy. The city can do more. It has to stop duplicating the  practice of  collecting the biodegradable and recyclable materials as this is clearly a barangay function.  The incident involving the barangay enforcement officer who issued the citation ticket to a barangay councilor would have been avoided had the barangays been required to assume full responsibility for the collection of these wastes.

The city has provided the barangays with materials recovery facilities, shredders and the salaries for  five barangay enforcement officers. It even buys the organic fertilizers that residents sell on per sack basis for eventual distribution to the farmers.  Such incentives augur well for citizens to be more responsible and follow the law.

Soon,  the spoiled “bratangay” officials, who expect  door-to-door delivery of services from the city in waste collection will be unmasked.  There is absolutely no excuse for them not to do their job. If Barrio Luz, with its space constraints and heavy population can do it, and do it very well, why are other barangays failing miserably in the law’s implementation? The reason is traceable to the lack of leadership in mobilizing the participation of the local stakeholders. There is now the necessity for the mayor, as the supervising authority, to hold the lethargic barangay officials accountable. Once cases are filed against them, expect a more livable city.

EcoWaste Coalition has requested the President to   exercise his supervisory power and authority over the local government units, as the prime enforcers of RA 9003, and to the fullest extent allowed by the law,  hold  accountable the “laggards” among the local chief executives in the implementation of the law. The  DENR, which is under the power of control of the President, should already be compelled to close the illegal dumpsites all over the country.  RA 9003 has been effective for 10 years. It is time for action.

President Aquino’s recent visit to Cebu to inaugurate a controversial coal power plant project drove home a point: he still has a lot to do to be the strong climate leader that this “hottest of the hot spots in biodiversity loss and destruction” badly needs and deserves.

For every new coal power plant being built here and elsewhere, the specter of more flooding, environmental refugees, sea level rise, escalating food prices and social disorders haunts us as a disaster-epicenter country.

Dr. James Hansen, the noted climatologist who brought the issue of climate change to the world, emphasizes that  coal is “the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet.” He urges nations to reduce carbon emissions of 6 percent to 7 percent each year to avoid harmful imbalances in the atmosphere.

Coal and other fossil fuels like gas and oil are considered cheap because their destructive effects to our health and environment are not included in the equation. Coal emits polluting gases that are harmful to people’s health, to our rich biodiversity and severely degraded habitats. Its byproduct, coal ash, contains  hazardous metals such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium and  lead that not even modern technology can remove.

Prioritizing the use of the clean and renewable energy (RE) from geothermal , solar and wind power is a must.  Government has to provide the healthy regulatory environment for RE’s growth and development. RE will pave the way for society to be weaned from the devastating  fossil fuel addiction.  We  subscribe to the proposal of Dr. Hansen that carbon tax be imposed to change the behavior of stakeholders and to  stop our dependency on fossil fuels.

We, the people, have to take the much-needed initiatives to lead the way, in partnership with stakeholders  who understand why they have to be done urgently, now.




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