MANILA - The country generated 362,000 metric tons of waste from July to December 2020, almost 4 times greater than the 88,000 metric tons of waste generated in 2019, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Friday.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the increase in waste during the pandemic is alarming but is still manageable.
"Alarming dahil masyadong abrupt iyong pagi-increase ng generation of the waste because of the pandemic, we require our public to use itong mga face mask, face shield, kaya tumaas," said Leones.
(This is alarming because the increase was abrupt due to the pandemic, which is compounded by the use of face masks and face shields)
"But I can say, kung sabihin nating alarming na nagiging problema na and we can no longer handle it, parang wala pa tayo doon," he added.
(The problem is not yet alarming and we are not yet at the point where we cannot handle it.)
Leones added that local government units (LGU) and hospitals follow protocols in waste disposal, particularly for personal protective equipment (PPE).
Localities, he said, have designated yellow bins and containers for face masks, face shields, and other medical waste.
"Kailangan ang protocol natin dyan, as per Department of Health, dapat i-sanitize nila iyong mga PPE tsaka iyong face mask bago nila dalhin sa sanitary landfill," he said.
(We need to use these as part of our protocols handed by the DOH. They need to sanitize their PPE and face mask before they put it in the sanitary landfill.)
Meanwhile, hospitals must first treat their medical waste before disposal. The environment official said most hospitals have their own treatment facility.
"Iyong mga establishment, nagre-register sila sa DENR as waste generator. And then bago nila i-transport iyan, merong transport permit. Bago nila ipa-treat iyan, dapat alam namin kung saan nila ipapa-treat iyan," he noted.
(The establishments already registered with the DENR as waste generator. Before they transport it, they would need a transport permit, and before they have it treated, they need to know where it should be treated.)
"Every step of the way, from generation hanggang disposal, naka-monitor sa amin iyan para ma-check namin na talagang walang matatapon sa mga water bodies o kung saan."
(We monitor all these steps along the way so we can make sure that it would not be disposed to water bodies or just anywhere.)
Sanctions may be imposed on LGUs and hospitals that will be proven to be non-compliant with the proper waste disposal procedure.
Punishments include a minimum penalty of P10,000, criminal charges, damages, and administrative penalty.
"Sa LGU, doon pa lang sa Solid Waste (Management Act) natin, not mentioning ito pang mga PPE natin, mga face shield, face mask, may mga local government unit na rin tayong nakasuhan sa Ombudsman," said Leones.
(LGUs can be held accountable under the Solid Waste Management Act. Some already faced charges at the Ombudsman.)
"Pero sa ngayong pandemic medyo, in fairness to the local government units, they are aware na talagang they need to dispose properly itong mga ganitong mga waste."
(During the pandemic, some of the LGUs are not aware that they need to dispose these wastes properly)
The official asked the public to help in reducing the generation of medical waste, as the pandemic drags on.
He also advised the public to be more disciplined - to dispose waste only in designated garbage bins and if there's none, they may place trash inside a plastic bag and later throw it in a trash can.
"We are encouraging the public not to use, as much as possible not to use iyong mga disposable face mask. May mga recyclable kasi na pwedeng labhan, pwedeng gamitin na nauulit, iyon na lang," he said.
(We are encouraging the public not to use, as much as possible not to use disposable face masks. Some reusable masks can just be washed.)