• Waste management: Saving the Philippine islands, tourism and the environment



    WHAT if waste management is integrated into the Philippine tourism economy? With the amount of waste that the country is generating, this industry if a goldmine opportunity. Imagine if the government and a handful of businessmen treat waste as a resource, we will have industries that are grateful to take our trash.

    The Philippine economy is suffering from a linear (take, make, use and dispose) economy. This is one of the major reasons for environmental degradation, along with corruption and lack of political will. And in due time, with a do-nothing scenario, we may no longer enjoy the paradise of the Philippine islands. Nature tourism is one of the most critical economic drivers of the Philippines, but it is left vulnerable to unsustainable environmental use.

    A few days ago I was able to meet experts from South Korea who presented to me new technologies on how to mitigate pollution. Other experts have shared with me how recycling and energy conservation is a community practice and is not left to just one person to do the job. In Japan, waste segregation is a must, but at the same time the government has encouraged different industries to process different type of waste. Unlike here in the Philippines, even if some individuals or groups are religiously segregating their waste, it still all ends up in the dumpsite.

    Apart from the encouragement of the strict enforcement of the law such as following the correct setbacks, zoning ordinances, sewage treatment facilities, and solid waste management, let me share various solutions to combat pollution:

    1. According to a report of the Senate Economic Planning Office, the Philippines in 2016 was generating at least 40,000 metric tons of waste a day. And waste-to-energy companies need at least 16,000 tons of trash annually to generate 1MW of energy. With the amount of trash that the Philippines is generating, waste-to-energy companies can provide electricity to a handful of areas in the country that are experiencing energy demand challenges.

    2. Locate more bottled water and beverage companies near clean river and ground water sources. For these companies, clean water is the major resource of their business. They invest in keeping water clean. In other parts of the world, beverage companies practically subsidize economic and ecological protection of watersheds, the city’s parks and open spaces. In Dublin, Ireland, the Guinness Brewery has been leasing the water rights and water use of Dublin River since 1759. Guinness is practically subsidizing the protection of the Dublin River. (Anecdotal research tells us that Guinness Brewery has a thousand-year lease on the land they occupy and water rights on Dublin River.)

    3. Tourism islands should develop farm tourism and farm-to-market restaurants and groceries. Island resorts can explore the possibility of discouraging imported food, especially packed junk foods that contribute to vast amount of plastic waste. This would also encourage local food production, and reduce “food miles” wasted. Many countries elsewhere in the world make use of farm-to-market and locally produced food as a form of tourism.

    4. Plastic bottles should be limited or not allowed in beach and forest tourism areas. Beach resorts can make available several nearby water fountains, and hikers should be required to use reusable water bottles.

    5. All supermarkets and wet markets should stop using plastic bags and impose the use of eco-bags.

    6. Promote rain water harvesting and water recycling. Big establishments can be encouraged to use recycled water in their public toilets, and in doing so can merit tax incentives

    7. Give tax incentives in planting and growing trees. This has been done in Singapore; tree planting and growing trees for five years are tax- deductible.

    8. Engaging the community: In developing an area, it is important to include the local community to forge a healthy relationship between the people and the tourism activities. We have often noticed in most communities, towns, and cities, despite being progressive, the local community has little or no participation in this urban growth. One of the reasons for the apathy of the locals towards the environment is their non-involvement in the environmental and tourism activities.

    Community-based ecotourism can even be a driver in job creation and poverty alleviation. We can observe such approaches applied in more progressive environment-friendly cities and countries. The locals are trained as tourist guides, and since they are most familiar with the place, they are in a much better position to connect tourists with the environment. This generates jobs and at the same time, provide manpower in protecting, conserving, and enhancing the environment. Locals are also given livelihood opportunities like making handicrafts and other souvenir items, contributing to the local economy.

    9. Offer substantial monetary rewards for reporting violations of environmental laws and regulations.

    10. Let us not refer to specific areas such as garbage dumpsites. It degrades the entire community. The government instead can be proactive and develop waste collection areas as plastic and metal recycling center, waste to energy centers, material recovery facilities, and organic soil center, among others. This is all possible as long as proper solid waste management is practiced in every household, community, town, city, province, island, and the whole country. Waste to energy does not consume and damage land resources.

    The Philippines has 7,641 islands and the fifth longest coastline in the world. We are also fifth in all other mineral resources and in natural flora and fauna. But all these beautiful islands are in danger of environmental degradation if no action is taken immediately. Tourism and the environment is one of the major sources of livelihood, yet it is an irony that we are destroying and killing it. We are “killing the golden goose that lays the golden egg.”

    In light of the waste management issues surrounding Boracay and other islands, towns, cities, and provinces, Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture is inviting both local and international experts to share and discuss possible alternatives in addressing waste management. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, we will be able to hold public forums and share with the public new technologies and guidelines that can be adopted locally.

    “We do not own the environment; we borrowed it from our children.” – American Indian Chief Seattle.


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