Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza applauds torch bearer, BJ “Tolits” Forbes, as he lights up the torch signifying the start of the 300-day nationwide Zero Basura Olympics. The Basura Olympics is an undertaking of the DENR, local government units and non-government organizations. It encourages all sectors of society to attain a “basura-free household, barangay, municipality, city and province through waste segregation, recycling and composting. Also in photo are (from left): Chess Grandmaster Eugene Torre, Earth Day Network Philippines head Odette Alcantara, Rizal Governor Casimiro Ynares III, and Fr. Ben Beltran (extreme right).
As Environment and Natural Resources Secretary, I am renewing my call on local government units (LGUs) as well as the public to conquer garbage through a “zero-waste lifestyle” as we formally launched a nationwide Zero Basura Caravan this morning.
Dubbed as “Strengthening Local Actions through FOURmula 1-Zero Basura Caravan,” the caravan, which is set to kick-off in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay on April 20, will be a sequenced intensive, information, education (IEC) campaign that will pass through provinces, cities and municipalities starting in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon, with the intent of cascading its key programs and strengthening DENR-LGUs partnership in solid waste management.
I cannot overemphasize the significance and timeliness of the information caravan. Our advocacy and strategy on the 3-strike policy and the Zero Basura Program will be explained to the LGUs in a more intimate setting to get their commitment and full support in the implementation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
The directive of President Arroyo to reduce by 50% the volume of garbage generated in the country in six months reflects not only the seriousness of our garbage problem but also the need for a more concerted and conscientious effort on the part of our local leaders and the people to implement the solid management program and for the DENR to seriously enforce RA 9003.
President Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 774 entitled “Reorganizing the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change” on Dec. 26, 2008 and put the DENR as head of the Task Group on Solid Waste Management.
RA 9003 mandates the setting up of an ecology center in every barangay and segregation of wastes at every step, and bans open burning and open dumpsites, among others.
In May 2008, the DENR and the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) has implemented a three-strike policy against LGUs that continue to operate open and controlled dumpsites in defiance of the existing waste management law.
The DENR is set to file charges for negligence and non-compliance against 50 cities and municipalities that continue to operate open dumps. For the rest of the LGUs that will not take any steps, the green courts are now waiting for them. These courts have been tasked by the Supreme Court to exclusively handle and expedite all violations of environmental laws.
The threat of climate change to humanity cannot be overemphasized. But the ways by which government can help address it are many, such as the proper management of our garbage. Garbage, if not properly attended to, produce methane, a greenhouse gas whose warming potential is 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.