The environment comes first. Without it, we would have no food to eat; we would have no materials to construct our homes with; we would have no medicine for the sick; we would have no resources to run our businesses with; we would have no spots for tourism; we would not even be able to breathe. We continue disregarding the environment and come ten to twenty years, we would be nothing.
All is not hopeless though. As a matter of fact, now more than ever, we are becoming aware of our role as caretakers of the environment. How to translate this consciousness into action is our biggest challenge.
At the moment, we have so many pressing concerns. Allow me, however, to provide you with a briefer on two of them – air and solid wastes, as far as the government’s policy and administration are concerned.
Air Quality Management
Our goal is to achieve and maintain clean air that meets the National Air Quality Guidelines for Criteria Pollutants, throughout the Philippines, while minimizing the possible associated impacts on our economy.
To date, motor vehicles remain the top source of air pollution in the country. In the National Capital Region alone, 80% of air pollution comes from mobile sources, with a far gap of 17% for area sources, and an even wider margin of 3% for stationary sources.
Given that air quality still exceeds the set annual ambient quality guideline values set under the Philippine Clean Air Act 1999 (Republic Act No. 8749), even after thirteen years of its enactment, the DENR, along with the Metro Manila Council [which consists of Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA)], with the local Chief Executives of Metro Manila, have deemed it necessary to lobby for the approval and the adoption of a unified anti-smoke belching program in area. This is to smoothen out conflicting ordinances for anti-smoke belching programs among the local government units.
This is the country’s most recent policy move, with recommendations of a simultaneous intensification of the vehicle inspection and maintenance system in anti-smoke belching program to meet the overall objective in reduction of air pollution from mobile source, as well as the involvement of the private sector (which would include NGOs, academe, POs, and other environmental groups) for information campaign in the objective of anti-smoke belching program, process of apprehension including the duties and responsibilities of both the motorists and the apprehending officers.
This Unified Anti-Smoke Belching Program is intended to complement all the other efforts to reduce air pollution, including the improved fuel quality where the switch to unleaded gasoline has taken effect since 2000; and for automative diesel to maintain a 500ppm Sulfur Content (which is equivalent to Euro2 Standards). The country is targeting a 50ppm Sulfur Content (equivalent to Euro4) by January 1, 2016.
The use of alternative fuels is being promoted through the Biofuels Act (Republic Act 9367), pushing for biodiesels (2% blend in automative diesel [98% diesel + 2% bio-diesel]) and bio-ethanol. E-10 is now even available in gasoline stations nationwide [90% gasoline + 10% ethanol]. We now have taxis running on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and buses on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
The DENR has set the following as priority program for 2012 to 2016 – 1) Traffic Volume Reduction through traffic management; 2) Switch to Clean Fuels through E-vehicle conversion and infrastructures development for refilling and charging stations; 3) Urban Greening; and 4) Enforcement through the intensified Anti-Smoke Belching Campaign, the strict compliance monitoring of industrial emissions to standards, and the installation of new PM10 ambient air monitoring stations.
This is the government’s direction towards clean air, and our support is very much needed.
Solid Waste Management
Solid waste management is the simplest yet the most complicated environmental problem that we have. Solving the country’s garbage problem means solving half of our brown environment concerns – air pollution (through the open burning of garbage and the methane coming from open dumpsites) and water pollution (clogged rivers and canals, and floating debris on water bodies).
It has been over a decade since the passage of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act 9003) and it is good to note that our people, particularly us living in Metro Manila, are now slowly grasping the fact that solid waste management is not just the role of the government (or the non-government organizations) but a shared responsibility.
A clear cut example is the Manila Bay case, with government agencies and the local government units being issued a continuing mandamus by the Supreme Court to ensure the rehabilitation and restoration of the said water body. This would not have happened if, from the beginning, all of us would have been conscious that the environment comes first. Thankfully, the DENR has found partners in private organizations and local governments through the Adopt-an-Estero/Water Body Program.
And thanks to the growing environmental consciousness among our people, solid waste management programs are being strengthened in the country. Just last week, the DENR has entered into a partnership with the Department of Education for the Eco-Savers Program intended to improve the school-based waste management programs through recycling and composting in all elementary and high schools in Metro Manila. Half-a-million worth of checks had been handed to seven select barangays in Metro Manila as seed money for the establishment of their Materials Recovery Facility, this upon the gracious assistance of Senator Pia Cayetano, who is current Chair for the Environment. The DENR has also partnered with the MMDA for the production of solid waste management movie plugs.
Guidelines, financing schemes and frameworks have also been formulated in support to the National Solid Waste Management Framework. Local governments are being guided in their RA 9003 implementation through the Zero Basura Caravan, and are recognized and rewarded through the Nationwide Search for Model Barangays, just as organizations are rewarded through the Zero Basuralympics. The DENR also oversees the School-based Ecological Solid Waste Management where schools are escorted as they implement their ESWM programs, even going out of their way to find sponsors for these schools so they could sustain their environment programs.
Partnership and shared responsibility — our respect goes to people who have committed almost the whole of their lives to protect, care, and really love the environment. And to all, our call, please help us recover and heal the earth that we love most.