Group urges Comelec to initiate reforms vs toxic campaign materials

Pro-environment groups are calling on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to implement reforms in the conduct of elections next year to avoid repeat of previous approaches that supposedly violated the laws and harmed the environment.

In a letter submitted to Comelec Chairman Sheriff M. Abas, various groups led by EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace Philippines, Mother Earth Foundation and Zero Waste Philippines appealed to the poll body "to proactively integrate waste and toxic prevention in the conduct of the upcoming elections."

Their appeal stemmed from the consistent violation of political candidates every election season during their campaign, from the unrestrained plastering of campaign posters outside Comelec-designated areas, such as on trees, electric posts and walls, to "the unbridled display of 'indirect' political propaganda such as graduation and fiesta banners and tarpaulins."

EcoWaste Coalition/MANILA BULLETIN

The groups also lamented about unregulated noise from mobile political propaganda and during campaign meetings; the unchecked distribution and littering of sample ballots on election day; the open burning of campaign waste materials, which is prohibited under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and the failure to avoid the use of single-use plastics.

"We have also observed the rampant use of campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled, particularly plastic tarpaulins, posters and buntings, as well as the confetti thrown in miting de avance," the groups said in their letter submitted Friday.

"We urge the Comelec to champion much needed policies and practices that will protect our fragile environment from being further degraded by the avalanche of partisan political activities leading to the 2022 elections,” Eileen Sison, EcoWaste Coalition president, said in their letter.

Among suggestions made by the groups to the Comelec to reduce footprints from the upcoming conduct of the election were:

• Adopt a resolution declaring and enunciating Zero Waste policy

• Create a special committee that will take the lead in the multi-stakeholders task of “greening” the elections

• Require all individuals and groups running for election to abide by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act

• Make it mandatory for parties and candidates to make use of recyclable and reusable materials free of hazardous chemical substances

• Use its moral authority to encourage parties and candidates to articulate in their electoral platforms how they plan to advance the state policy to “protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology"

• Incorporate environmental awareness and responsibility in the Comelec's public information drive for clean, orderly, peaceful, honest and fair elections

• Regulate campaign motorcades to address perennial problems with traffic congestion, noise, air pollution and climate change

• Work with the Department of Health to set regulations on poll campaign noise, and

• Strictly enforce the laws, rules and regulations on proper posting of campaign materials and enforce sanctions to those who violate them.

EcoWaste Coalition also said it will reach out to political parties and political wannabes to encourage them to think of the environment as well.