Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A waste-free festival

Colorful banderetas have dotted the streets in Cebu City, reminding everyone of its top crowd-drawer, the annual Sinulog festivities.

With two million people expected to converge in the city this week, the local government under the leadership of Mayor Mike Rama (his first Sinulog event as mayor, although he is a veteran in overseeing the annual celebration), the Sinulog foundation and partner establishments and institutions, are doing their utmost, like the ever-focused and determined ants, to ensure its success.

Well, how is “success” measured? That is another story, depending upon which particular stakeholder’s perspective is considered. For the environmental crusaders, success means a green festivity, with less pollution on land, air and water,and of course, an eco-mindful constituency, visitors and diligent environmental law enforcers.

We are inspired to see the high-impact steps a.k.a. the much-awaited show of political will now being done by the city government to implement R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law. Mayor Rama exhorted the barangays to comply with their duties and has provided them with much-needed financial support and incentives such as shredders for biodegradable materials and even five environmental enforcers for each barangay.

For now, issues related to peace and order, traffic coordination, accommodation for out-of-towners and, never forget, the ubiquitous basura, are potential monstrous headaches which do not faze organizers. Residents in Metro Cebu also know better – important appointments, meetings and forums are all set after Sinulog.

Despite a full-packed schedule, Councilor Nida Cabrera shared with the listeners of dyRC’s “Hagit sa Kinaiyahan” last Saturday the various measures in place to make certain that tons of trash are well managed during and after the event. As the chairperson of the Sanggunian Panlungsod’s environment committee, Councilor Cabrera has the full support of Mayor Rama in the implementation of R.A. 9003. She definitely knows where she speaks. As “Kap” of Barangay Luz, she received for the people of the barangay the prestigious Galing Pook Award in 2009 for Participatory Environmental Management. To help manage anticipated inundation by more-than-the-usual rubbish this week, the city embarked on a partnership with the youth and the universities.

Is a waste-free Sinulog celebration or any festivity possible in the Republic of Plastic, I mean the Philippines? Well, hope springs eternal among determined dreamers. Yes, it is possible – but only if we care enough and have the will to make it happen.

It is certainly uplifting to see a growing number of stakeholders talking about sustainability and lessening carbon footprints. But more effort and action are necessary to increase the number of consumers who are conscious of their day-to-day choices in buying and handling stuff and packaging materials, especially those which harm the environment.

We take note of numerous countries and local authorities abroad already competing to change the behavior of consumers by taxing plastic bags. Positive effects in terms of drastic reduction in plastic bags usage, are evident.

It is important likewise that manufacturers integrate sustainability in their production and consider their product’s impact on the environment – from production to “disposal” phases. States have started to shift the burden on the manufacturers by imposing a take-back or buy-back policy or imposing tax for recycling of the manufactured goods.

While we laud the various initiatives to green the business community in Cebu with projects such as green-shopping bags, I reiterate the urgent need to list of the non-environmentally acceptable products (Neaps), a task given to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) under RA 9003.

Because a sleeping giant named NSWMC has chosen not to call for public hearings among the stakeholders, RA 9003 has remained an empty law, specifically insofar as Neaps are concerned.

It is best for President Aquino, who is vocal about accountable and transparent governance, to look into the performance of the NSWMC and require the executive agencies concerned, especially the DENR, to explain why such public hearings and the Neap listing have not been done 10 years having already elapsed since the law’s was passed.

Which agencies should be held accountable? The government sector is represented by the principal environmental law enforcers, including the heads of the key executive agencies, as follows: (1) DENR, (2) Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), (3) Department of Science and Technology (DOST), (4) Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), (5) Department of Health (DOH), (6) Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), (7) Department of Agriculture (DA), (8) Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), (9) League of provincial governors, (10) League of city mayors, (11) League of municipal mayors, (12) Association of barangay councils, (13) Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) and (14) Philippine Information Agency.

The private sector is represented by (a) a representative of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) whose principal purpose is to promote recycling and the protection of air and water quality, (b) a representative of the recycling industry and (c) a representative of the manufacturing or packaging industry.

Whys is NSWMC‘s performance substandard and worse, allowed to be so? Is there pressure from the potentially affected industries? Noted also is the exclusion from the body of the Department of Education and the youth, who are most affected by our throw away culture. With only one NGO representing the environment and people, how can our interest and that of Nature be adequately protected?

NSWMC, please do your job. Exhibit the overdue political will to declare certain forms of plastic and unfriendly materials as illegal contrabands. We will surely see a greener Philippines, and yes, more green festivities, with such a milestone.

Amid these challenges, we should press for a low-carbon lifestyle. The timeless passage in The Lorax of Dr. Seuss reminds us: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”


Post a Comment