Only a tougher enforcement of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act can stop the reckless dumping of waste into the country’s waterways, particularly in Metro Manila where garbage chokes creeks and rivers, an environmental watchdog said.
“While pleased with the ongoing efforts by private and public groups to rehabilitate Estero de Paco and other esteros, we find that reckless waste disposal continues to spoil and clog our waterways,” Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition, noted ahead of World Water Day today, which coincides with the 10th anniversary of the signing of R.A. 9275, or the Clean Water Act.
The observance of World Water Day is meant to draw attention to the importance of freshwater and the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
The United Nations has warned that demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase significantly over the coming decades, and the increase will strain resources in nearly all regions, especially in developing and emerging economies.
One such economy is the Philippines. In 2013, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned of a looming water crisis in the country and urged Philippine officials to focus on boosting supply and sanitation.
“The region needs to invest an additional $59 billion to improve water supply and another $71 billion for better sanitation in 2014,” ADB vice president Bindu Lohani said.
“Sanitation is a great concern across the region,” Lohani said. He predicts that this Millennium Development Goal target will not be reached, given that over 1.7 billion people in Asia do not have access to improved sanitation.
The UN Millennium Development Goal for Water pledges to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
To draw attention to the irresponsible disposal practices by households and other generators, EcoWaste deployed its Basura Patrollers on March 17 and 18 to take photos of clogged waterways in the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Manila, Quezon and Taguig.
“The photos we took paint a harrowing picture of how we treat our waterways as if these are dumpsites,” Lucero said.
She identified the esteros in Manila with the biggest volume of floating garbage as the waterways along Recto Ave. near Jose Abad Santos Avenue, Recto Avenue near Juan Luna Street, Old Torres Street—Juan Luna Street, Soler Street near Masangkay Street and Arlegui Street.
Lucero said it is time that the public acted with environmental responsibility by reducing trash and by reusing, recycling, and composting to revive the vanishing esteros.
“Sooner or later, the rainy season will set in and again threaten our communities with intermittent rains and devastating flashfloods that we all know are exacerbated by blocked waterways,” she said.
“What more do we need to grasp the reality that whatever we recklessly throw will return to haunt us?” she said.
The EcoWaste Coalition said both the Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) and Clean Water Act (RA 9275) ban and penalize waste dumping.
RA 9275, in particular, prohibits the “discharging, depositing or causing to be deposited material of any kind directly or indirectly into the water bodies or along the margins of any surface water, where the same shall be liable to be washed into such surface water, either by tide action or by storm, floods or otherwise, which could cause water pollution or impede natural flow in the water body.”
As documented by the group, the flotsam in the esteros is made up mainly of plastic-based materials such as bags, wrappers and polystyrene packaging for food and non-food items, which are basically the same discards that are finding their way from the esteros to Manila Bay.
The discards survey conducted in 2006 by the EcoWaste Coalition and its partners showed that plastic materials constitute 76 percent of the floating trash in Manila Bay, with plastic bags comprising 51 percent; sachets and junk food wrappers, 19 percent; Styrofoam containers, 5 percent; hard plastics, 1 percent; rubber, 10 percent; and biodegradable waste, 13 percent.
A follow-up survey in 2010 found that 75.55 percent of the collected garbage in Manila Bay is mainly plastic discards, mostly plastic bags and polystyrene products.
With a report from Jiggy Marquez