Environment chief: PH facing ‘garbage crisis’

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 05 2019 01:39 PM

A man gathers garbage at the Estero de Magdalena in Binondo, Manila, June 20, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File


MANILA - Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said on Thursday that the Philippines is facing a “garbage crisis” as waste generation has become unprecedented and clean-ups are no longer enough.

“We are now in the middle of a garbage crisis,” Cimatu said during his speech at a Stratbase Group forum on the environment and the circular economy. 

“If we continue to act only for our independent interests, continue to spoil our water bodies and fail to responsibly manage our wastes, we will not be able to sustain our efforts on this campaign,” he said of the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, known for its notoriously filthy water strewn with mostly household waste.

“We and the following generations will all suffer the consequences if we do not change the way we behave as an organization and as individuals,” Cimatu said.

He pointed out that in Metro Manila, waste generation for the first quarter of the year was already at 34,574.77 cubic meters while for the second quarter it was 32,221.17 cubic meters, surpassing the baseline estimate for the whole year. 

“The target estimated waste generation baseline for 2019 of 58,112.31 cubic meters has already been surpassed,” he said.

In an ambush interview, Cimatu shared his experience heading clean-ups in Manila Bay and other bodies of water connected to it.

“We found out really that it’s a culture and behavior problem. Because despite our warning to them (residents) to not throw anything, nandiyan na naman (garbage is there again),” he said.

Cimatu said they have to put up concrete fences to prevent people from dumping their waste in the rivers. They also plan to construct a common septic tank for informal settlers while they are arranging for their relocation.

The environment department has also started sending out people to deal with areas that garbage trucks are not able to service.

“Hindi naso-solve 'yung garbage by cleaning it right in that area. So we have to clean it talaga from source,” he said. 

(The garbage problem is not solved by just cleaning the area. So we have to clean it from the source.)

In his speech, Cimatu announced that as of November 21 this year, 13,212 establishments around the Manila Bay have been inspected.

Of these, he said, 2,684 establishments have been issued with notices of violation of environment regulations, while 1,910 more will be issued. 

Some 107 establishments have been issued with cease-and-desist orders,” he said. There were also cases filed at the pollution adjudication board against two establishments, who will have to pay penalties if they are found guilty.

Cimatu credits the importance of political will in rehabilitating Boracay, something that they hope to apply in the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

The renowned beach destination, plagued by overdevelopment and sewerage and garbage woes, was shut down for six months last year for rehabilitation. 

“Political will enabled us to mobilize supporters, volunteers, and ordinary Filipino citizens to rally to our cause,” he said. 

Asked if he would recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the banning of single-use plastic, which makes up a large part of the country's waste stream, Cimatu said they are in the process of finalizing a department order.

“Within the next two weeks (we will finalize) a department order prescribing the use of plastic,” he said, adding that it would be better if people can really avoid single-use plastics.