CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A few days after President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his final state of the nation address, environmental group EcoWaste Coalition looked back on the achievements and failures of the government on environmental issues during his presidency as he steps down from office a few months from now.
The coalition has noted that there is still so much work to be done for the country’s environmental laws to be considered as effectively functioning, especially on the implementation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“While we welcome the closure of 335 open dumpsites across the country as touted by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu in May 2021, the current government, like the previous ones, has yet to fully meet the other key requirements of the two-decade-old [RA 9003], which could have hugely reduced the volume and toxicity being generated by our households, institutions, businesses and industries, and the mind-boggling costs for their disposal,” the group said in a statement.
It said the poor enforcement of the mandatory waste segregation at source, the inefficient composting of biodegradables and the overdue issuance of the list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging, including single-use plastics, have undermined the efforts of local governments and communities to effectively deal with garbage and all is concomitant problems, including ocean pollution.
Instead of focusing its resources in maximizing the potentials of zero-waste resource management and clean production, EcoWaste Coalition said “the government is hell-bent in constructing more landfills and in tearing down the ban on waste incineration,” which the groups considers as a “key environmental and sustainability policy enshrined in two major environmental laws (RA 9003 and RA 8749 or the Clean Air Act) – through its persistent pursuit of burn or thermal ‘waste-to-energy’ disposal technologies.”
The group also noted that while the government’s decisive action to re-export tons upon tons of illegal hazardous waste and plastic waste shipments from Canada, Hong Kong and South Korea, “the government has yet to bring the culprits to justice and fully ban the entry of foreign waste into our borders.”
Global waste dump
It also hit the Duterte administration’s failure to institute two enduring policy measures that will protect the country from becoming a global waste dump, despite the president’s marching order in May 2019 that “the Philippines will no long accept any waste from any country.”
The first of these measures is the unfulfilled revision of DENR administrative order 2013-22, which, the group said, still allows the importation of recyclable materials with hazardous content, including e-waste, plastic waste and fly ash from coal-fired power plants, subject to certain conditions.
The second is the delayed ratification of the Basel Convention Ban amendment, now an international law, which seeks to protect developing countries from becoming an expedient dumping ground for hazardous wastes from developed countries.
“While lauding the government for its ratification of the Minimata Convention on Mercury in June 2020, we cannot help but express our frustration over the long delay in ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, which entered into force on December 5, 2019,” the group said.
Envi, health justice
With only 10 months remaining before Duterte hands over the presidency to his successor, the coalition has urged the government to carry out environmental health and justice measures, including the discontinuation of the implementation of the DENR-issued “waste-to-energy” guidelines and stop the passage of any legislation rescinding the incineration ban under the RA 8749 and RA 9003;
The group wants the government to ensure the safe closure, cleanup and rehabilitation of closed dumpsites, including groundwater and methane gas monitoring systems, to protect against the discharge of hazardous substances to the environment.
“We urge the government to make full use of the limited time available to carry out the above measures that can form part of President Duterte’s legacy to cut back waste and chemical pollution, and uphold environmental health and justice,” the group said.