MANILA - Green campaigners on Friday raised the need to declare a climate emergency, as well as the country's unabated plastic pollution problem this Earth Day 2022, mounting protests and forums to raise awareness on said environmental issues.
Environmental advocates from Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) and other networks criticized the government during their protest for its supposed negligence in responding to climate issues. Activists said government officials should also be held accountable.
The groups lamented the government's continuing push for fossil fuel and coal use. Green campaigners have repeatedly urged government to transition to clean energy to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
"Mahina ang mga nanunungkulan sa usapin ng siyensa ng climate change, sa kanila hindi sentrong usapin ang krisis ng klima, sa kanila ang climate crisis ay isang normal lang na sitwasyon at pangyayari, hindi lang ito lack of science kundi wala talaga silang pakialam," said Ian Rivera, PMCJ's national coordinator.
(Our leaders are weak regarding the science on climate change. For them this is not the center of the discussions, deeming it a normal situation. It is no longer about lacking the science knowledge on this, they just don't care.)
Rivera said they are worried about a new study released by the United Nations' (UN) climate experts, warning about a catastrophic climate change by 2025 if carbon emission levels remain unchanged.
They also called on the public to vote for leaders in the upcoming elections who would prioritize climate justice and measures promoting a 'green agenda', saying this would be a vote for survival.
"Itong pagkilos na ito ay panawagan sa lahat ng mamamayan na hindi na sapat ang pagbabago ang eleksyon kundi kailangan ng baguhin ang mga polisiya para sa panahon ng katindihan ng krisis sa klima ay tayong lahat ay may chance ng survival," the environmentalist added.
(This movement is calling on the public that changes in the upcoming elections will no longer be enough. We need to change the policies during this time, we are facing climate crisis and we need a chance of survival.)
The groups marched towards the Mendiola Peace Arch, where they were blocked by police. At one point, members laid on the ground for their protest.
James Boston, senior fellow at US-based Johns Hopkins University's Foreign Policy Institute, said multilateral efforts must be done to solve the world's plastic crisis.
Boston recommended coordination between the public and state, fueled by science, a clean seas campaign, and coastal cleanups. Aside from this, "science diplomacy" must be enforced between nations to further inform people and governments on the matter.
He also urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to foster marine environmental conservation cooperation.
"More than 8 million tons of plastics enter the ocean each year, equals to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute into the ocean. As many as 51 trillion microplastic particles, 500 times more than the stars of our galaxy, litter our oceans and seas," Boston said in a webinar.
"I look at the need to support ASEAN development... the key objective is to foster cooperation and ocean observation monitoring, sharing of data and forecasting, [and] expand and strengthen existing regional agreements relevant to marine plastic litter," he added.
Boston likewise warned about the "ecological catastrophe" in the South China Sea, which is also being threatened by marine litter.
"The approach is to foster a social media global campaign to save the South China Sea from exploitation in plastic pollution... the need to appeal to the UN for marine protected areas in the [said waters]" he added.
A study published last year showed the Philippines is the worst plastic polluter in the world's oceans, producing over a third of global plastic waste. The Pasig River, meanwhile, has been identified as the top plastic discard source worldwide.
This was why Gloria Ramos, Oceana Philippines vice president, is calling for more refillable glass bottles and the phasing out of single-use plastics, noting that recycling "is not working" to save the oceans.
"There is no way to fully control where a single-use plastic bottle ends up. It could be in a recycle bin, in the trash, on the street, or in the ocean," Ramos wrote on her presentation.
"The call for action is stop plastic at the source... demand accountability because the law is there," she added, noting the Writ of Kalikasan that the Supreme Court issued to government over the country's plastic pollution problem.
"It cannot be stand alone, relying solely on laws or science, these have to be merged together. It is so important to collaborate with other stakeholders," she said, noting the importance of media to extend the messaging.
Local government share the burden now on plastic pollution, which she said "can no longer be managed."
Environment Secretary Jim Sapulna last month bared his support in banning single-use plastics after the pollution became "uncontrollable."
"I myself, the DENR is supporting the bill banning the use of small plastic, ano. Kasi iyan ang hindi natin naku-control – shampoo, sabon, all of these things, hindi natin naku-control ito," he had said.
(We cannot control it anymore - shampoo, soaps (plastic products), all of these things cannot be controlled anymore.)
Lawmakers in the House last year passed a measure seeking to gradually phase out the production, sale, and use of single-use plastics, while the Senate passed a bill seeking to make plastic manufacturers accountable for their plastic waste.
Some environmentalists have pushed for zero-waste initiatives and plastic-free homes to help address the plastic pollution problem.