Wednesday, January 19, 2011

'Green' the elections, new Comelec chief urged

An environmental watchdog challenged on Wednesday newly appointed Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. to “green” the elections.

“In view of his promise to carry out massive reforms within the commission, we urge Chairman Brillantes to equally introduce changes that will ‘green’ and cut the wastefulness in future polls,” Roy Alvarez, president of EcoWaste Coalition, said in their letter to the poll chief.

“We hope that the Comelec, under your watch, will exercise effective leadership to protect not only the sanctity of the ballot, but also safeguard the environment from further degradation associated with political activities,” he said.

The group said their monitoring of the 2007 and 2010 elections shows blatant breach of electoral as well as health and environmental regulations due to the failure of the poll body, national agencies and local government units (LGUs) from enforcing existing electoral and environmental laws.

Some of the typical environmental lapses that have occurred in past elections that the group cited include: the uncontrolled plastering of campaign posters outside Comelec-designated areas; the hanging of campaign flaglets, lanterns and streamers in streets and alleys; the display of “indirect” campaign-related banners such as graduation and fiesta “greetings” and announcements extolling the projects and achievements of politicians; and the unregulated noise from mobile political propaganda and during campaign meetings among others.

The group, in their letter, also provided Brillantes with a list of recommendations, which they said will “lead to an environmentally-responsible exercise of the people’s right of suffrage and authentic participatory governance through sectoral representation.”

The list includes proposals for the Comelec to adopt a resolution declaring Zero Waste as a policy to effectively reduce trash in all future electoral exercises; to create a unit, ideally led by the Chairman or one of his Commissioners, to take charge in “greening” the elections and no-nonsense enforcement of laws, in partnership with stakeholders; to require all individuals and groups running for election to sign a Memorandum of Agreement stipulating the obligation of candidates to comply with lawful and environmentally-friendly campaign practices, including a mandatory post-campaign clean up; and to incorporate environmental responsibility in its public information drive for clean, orderly, peaceful, honest and fair elections.

The group also called for a ban on campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled and are habitually littered or burned in violation of R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and related local ordinances; ensure full compliance to the ban on open burning, particularly of campaign posters and banners removed during cleanup operations; regulate campaign motorcades, if not impose an outright ban, to address the rising problems with traffic congestion, air pollution and climate change, especially in urban centers such as Metro Manila; set regulations, in coordination with the Department of Health, on poll campaign noise; and adopt and popularize practical guidelines to assist political parties, party-list groups and candidates in preventing and reducing their campaign waste.


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