An official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday underscored the need for barangays to intensify the campaign against garbage by implementing proper waste segregation at source.
Interviewed at the sidelines of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity-Manila Observatory (ACB-MO) Partnership launch in Quezon City on Monday, DENR Undersecretary for Operations in Luzon and Visayas Juan Miguel Cuna said proper enforcement of the garbage law, particularly the proper segregation and disposal of waste, should be done “every step of the way.”
The partnership between ACB and MO was facilitated by DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga who was a former executive director of the Manila Observatory to bring together science-based solutions to concerns brought about by climate change and biodiversity loss.
Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 calls for the proper segregation of waste. It mandates local government units (LGUs) to properly dispose of garbage collected from various sources, including households.
“It should start in every home. I grew up in Manila and I know where the problem lie, especially for those who live near esteros,” said Cuna, a former Director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), as he underscored the need to relocate informal settler families away from waterways to address the perennial garbage and flooding woes, particularly in Metro Manila.
The EMB, along with the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) enforces RA 9003.
Cuna noted that primarily, the garbage problem is caused by poor solid waste management practice at home, and the failure of barangays and LGUs to properly collect and dispose of garbage.
“What we really need to do is impose penalty every step of the way, for their failure,” he said, citing the case of rivers being the biggest garbage dump years back.
Informal settlers, he said, continue to dump wastes in waterways, thereby contributing to the problem of ocean plastic pollution and flooding.
The failure of RA 9003 to effectively address the garbage problem, particularly plastic wastes has also prompted the government to pass the problem of recovering waste to the private sector through Republic Act 11898 or the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Act of 2022 and its implementing rules and regulations.
The law requires large-scale companies to establish a mechanism for the recovery of their plastic packaging.
Cuna said the implementation of the EPR law would be a big boost to the government effort to address not only garbage, but also ocean plastic pollution that have become a global problem.
“Definitely, if we implement the law, which requires companies to recover the waste they produce, it will help. Imagine after a certain year, they recover 20 percent, then 40 percent and so on, this will really help reduce plastic pollution,” Cuna said.
Under the EPR, companies are obliged to implement proper and effective recovery, treatment and recycling or disposal of their products after they have been sold and used by consumers.
The EPR law will also help in advancing a circular economy that mitigates climate change and protects our life-supporting ecosystems by avoiding or minimizing pollution while maximizing the use of materials.
According to Cuna, the DENR is keenly supporting a United Nations initiative to study the need to forge a legally binding agreement on plastic pollution among countries.
“There will be a meeting next month on plastic pollution… It will be the third meeting and we look forward to this initiative,” Cuna said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Faced with ocean plastic pollution problem, the Philippines will benefit from a legally binding treaty, as it will help address the problem on plastic, he said.
“Definitely, with our problem on plastic, we can learn from other countries how they address plastic problem,” Cuna said.