‘Disaster, a wake-up call for Pinoys’

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE recent disaster that hit the country particularly in Metro Manila and Rizal province should serve as a wake-up call for the Filipinos to correct wrong waste management practices daily.

This was stressed yesterday by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Lito Atienza, saying that the garbage problem is now considered as a “major national concern.”

Atienza added that this is also the best time for local government authorities to clean esteros and other important water bodies of illegal structures and garbage which aggravated the recent flooding in the National Capital Region.

“Tayong lahat ngayon ay may high-level awareness on the problem. Once and for all, ngayon na,” said Atienza, even as he cautioned against taking a laid back attitude on the problem and that the lessons of tropical storm ‘Ondoy’ should never be forgotten even “when things have normalized.”

Atienza, however, lamented that the wake up call came in a “very violent manner” that still took everyone by surprise despite repeated calls he had been making especially to local government officials to pay serious attention to the garbage problem, particularly on the implementation and enforcement of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act 9003).

“Matagal na kaming nagsisigaw dito,” Atienza noted, saying that the havoc ‘Ondoy’ wrought the past week maybe just a precursor of things to come which would leave the poor to suffer most due to inept local leadership in addressing their constituency’s garbage issues.

“Often, the high cost of these calamities are caused not so much by lack of knowledge or resources as by poor governance,” he added.

A case in point which Atienza stated is what he described as “knee-jerk” reaction by many to use the population issue as a scapegoat for the proliferation of illegal settlers along the shoreline of Laguna de Bay and the presence of illegal fishpens in the bay’s waters.

“Ang nangyayari, palaging nasisi ay ang bilang ng tao. Pero ang tunay na pagkukulang ay nasa kawalan ng pagpaplano, tamang pagpapaganap, pagpapatupad ng batas,” Atienza said, noting that it’s the local leaders who have allowed, “either by design or by omission” the presence of these structures.

On the fishpens in Laguna Lake, Atienza said that the operators of the structures have benefited from the lake for the longest time and that ridding the lake of the structures will not only translate to higher fish catch of poor fisherfolk, but would, at the same time, help prevent a repeat of the ‘Ondoy’ experience.

He said the fishpens are a major factor why the 90,000-hectare inland water body is already close to the limits of its capacities and the effects of climate change may push the lake beyond its coping capacities unless real efforts are made to prepare for changes in climate.