#MINDANAO: Why June 5 matters

Published June 9, 2021, 7:20 AM

by John Tria

Yes, June 5 is world environment day. Celebrated globally, it passed through the archipelago and our calendars without much notice save for some posts in some social media pages.

Nonetheless, in the two months since Earth Day last April we have seen many environmental realities dawn on us, from a “somewhat summer” in Mindanao (because it was rainier than usual) to the arrival of the first rains courtesy of Typhoon Dante- also entering via Mindanao.
World Environment Day prods us to think very deeply about our environment and how it affects us and, more importantly, how we affect it. Our environmental laws are designed to check on our behavior towards the environment.

In particular the Clean Water Act or RA 8748 and the Clean Air Act or RA 9275 and the Solid Waste Management Act or RA 9003 enacted two decades ago were meant to address the bigger causes of the air and water pollution problem: motor vehicle emissions and wastewater from commercial and residential establishments, and of course, solid waste.

Using air pollution to illustrate my point while some may argue that these individually contribute a small amount of pollutants, claiming it to be negligible, the reality is that when hundreds of thousands of motor vehicles run together in thoroughfares the impact of this collective air pollution is at 65% of total air emissions, while only 21% come from stationary sources such as factories. This is according to the National Air Quality Status Report prepared by the DENR Environmental Management Bureau.

Hence, unleaded fuels and lower sulfur contents were mandated in our fuels, and annual emission tests for motor vehicles are conducted- measures to address the major contributor- our own air pollution sources which are our vehicles. The shift to cleaner public transport and the building of mass transport projects will ease the air pollution load further, helping make the air in our cities cleaner nearby industrial facilities.

But the environmental challenge of today is confronting our collective love affair with single use plastics. It has been reported that we are one of the biggest users of these materials in the world, and that a lot of it goes into our waterways of this item in the world, and, reportedly, the largest producer of single use plastic waste. Who hasn’t seen a lot of it in our waterways and the stomachs of local fish? Are we not concerned?

This has prompted many local governments to either restrict its use or ban it outright within their jurisdictions, and many quarters, including from outside and within government such as the Climate Change Commission to push for a nationwide ban.

House Bill No. 9147 or the Single-Use Plastics Products Regulation Act includes a three-tiered phase-out plan that will effectively address the country’s high rate of plastic waste leakage. It also includes measures such as a Consumption, Reduction and Recovery Program, and a Producer Responsibility Scheme, as well as Reusable and Compostable Alternatives to single use plastics. The bill was approved on second reading in the House of Representatives. Looks like this will contribute to lessening the amount of single use plastic carelessly disposed in many areas that is not disposed of properly.

The point I am making in this is that in all of these new environmental laws have analyzed that the bigger source of the problem is our own individual and household behaviors, from our air emissions and now, use of single use plastic.

It is time to take stock of our own behavior to the environment and be accountable for them.

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