Environmental degradation leads to human rights violations – CHR

Published June 15, 2021, 4:40 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Commission on Human Rights

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) warned that environmental degradation can lead to very serious violations of human rights.

In a statement, the CHR said the violations, caused by improper disposal of waste and hazardous materials, will negatively impact the health, food and water safety, housing, and overall wellbeing of Filipinos.

In line with the observance of the Philippine Environment Month this June, the CHR highlights the government’s programs that improve waste management in the country.

It cited the complete closure of 335 open dumpsites all over the country by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

It said the closure shows the commitment of the DENR to strictly enforce Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

“RA 9003 specifically bans the use of open dumpsites for solid waste by any person, including local government units (LGUs),” the CHR said through Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia.

“We commend the appropriate cases that have been filed by the DENR against public officials who have not fully complied with the law in their capacity as heads of LGUs,” De Guia said.

She cited some of the health and environmental risks of illegal dumpsites such as contamination of soil and water, increased risks of natural disasters and health issues, as well as the disruption of wildlife.

“Unlike sanitary landfills, illegal dumpsites do not have built-in systems and constant monitoring for environmental safety,” she said.

For effective waste management, the CHR said that LGUs need to develop holistic approaches for reusing, recycling, and composting waste within their areas of jurisdiction.

De Guia pointed out that the current health crisis has made it more difficult for local communities to adhere to proper waste management.

She said the collection of waste from certain locations such as quarantine facilities, lockdown areas, and isolation centers pose a different set of hazards since they may be potentially infected with COVID-19.

To cope with these challenges, the CHR said that LGUs need stricter compliance with the National Solid Waste Management Commission’s (NSWMC) Resolution No. 1364 series of 2020 or the Interim Guidelines on the Management of COVID-19 Related Health Care Waste.

This is especially crucial since there is a notable increase in medical and personal protective equipment being thrown away, it stressed.

De Guia also said: “With or without the pandemic, the CHR underscores that from national to household levels, there is an urgent call for waste management to be treated as essential public service. This will not only improve environmental sustainability and health outcomes but will surely contribute to the full enjoyment of our basic human rights.”