Keynote Speech: First National Integrated Waste Management Exhibition

June 22, 2015

Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda

First National Integrated Waste Management Exhibition

22 June 2015 | SM North EDSA


Last week, Pope Francis released his much-anticipated encyclical on the environment, stressing on how humanity has abused the earth, our common home, which he says is beginning to look more and more like an “immense pile of filth.[1]


Allow me to quote part of the Pope’s message which is very relevant to our event today:


“These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. Our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard.[2]


In 2001, Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Act, a measure I authored, was signed into law. Since then, I have been advocating for the national and local governments’ faithful compliance with the law.


The measure aims to create a clean and healthy environment using a system of solid waste management that starts with segregation of garbage at its source, segregated transportation, processing, treatment and proper disposal of solid waste. It emphasizes on recycling so that less garbage is actually brought to the sanitary landfill and those brought to the final disposal site are effectively maintained.


To develop sound policies, this law created the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) under the Office of the President, which should promote research on ecological solid waste management and resource conservation and coordinate the operation of local solid waste management boards in the local government units (LGUs). The law sets the trend in encouraging greater private sector participation in solid waste management.


The ESWM Act is one of the environmental laws we need to implement in order to build clean, healthy, safe and resilient communities.


Unfortunately, 14 years after its passage, majority of LGUs have yet to comply with the provisions of RA 9003, particularly on decentralization of waste collection, submission of an SWM Plan, establishment of local SWM boards, establishment of Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF), closure of all open and controlled dumpsites, and mandatory waste diversion.[3]


Let us take the case of the Manila Bay area. Out of 178 LGUs within the Manila Bay region, only 51 percent are compliant with segregation-at-source; 50 percent for segregated collection; 44 percent with functional MRFs; and 30 percent with the allowed disposal facilities/ sanitary landfills. Only two of the concerned LGUs have an approved 10-Year Solid Waste Management Plan.[4]


The harrowing fact: more than 60 percent of the waste collected by environmental groups in the Manila Bay during a clean-up drive were made of plastic[5], which is very dangerous because plastic bags can choke and poison marine species and damage marine ecosystems.


According to the study titled, ‘Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean,[6]’ published in the journal Science, of the 275 million tons of plastic waste generated in 192 coastal countries worldwide in 2010, plastic debris entering the ocean was somewhere between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons.


The Philippines is the third top contributor with around 0.28-0.75 million metric tons of plastic marine waste annually, next only to China and Indonesia.


This goes to show that we must strictly enforce the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, otherwise, all efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay and all other marine ecosystems would be futile. Unless we learn how to manage our waste, starting with proper garbage segregation and disposal, we will never be able to clean our waters and our communities.


In 2013, the Office of the Ombudsman, through its Environmental Ombudsman, together with the National Solid Waste Management Commission, the DENR, DILG, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Zero Waste Philippines, Mother Earth Foundation and Bangon Kalikasan launched the “Solid Waste Management Law Voluntary Compliance Assessment and Promotion Program”, which aims to recognize LGUs that have complied with the ESWM Law and urge voluntary compliance of other LGUs.


Letters were sent to LGUs asking them to rate themselves regarding their compliance with key provisions of the ESWM Law, particularly on mandatory segregation of wastes, materials recovery facilities, no segregation/no collection rule, closure and rehabilitation of open/controlled disposal facility, use of sanitary landfill or alternative technology, and submission of 10-year solid waste management plan.


The self-assessed compliance reports will be validated and the ESWM Excellence Awards will be conferred on LGUs with best compliance programs.


I am hopeful that through this program, more LGUs will be encouraged, if not compelled, to take up their responsibility of implementing the ESWM law and other environmental laws.


I am hopeful that the NSWMC will strengthen its efforts in ensuring compliance to the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law. Encourage LGUs that compliance is doable. Good policies are important but it is in the implementation that we can make a real difference.


In closing, I wish to quote Pope Francis’ encyclical once more: “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.[7]


Let us work together to redefine development—to change our way of thinking and our way of doing.


Let us veer away from the throwaway culture and aim for zero waste economy where the output of each resource use is converted into input for another use.


Let us turn our back on extractive and consumptive practices and adopt the concept of sustainable development and low-carbon lifestyle.


Let us give nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to our duty as stewards of the earth so that we, and the generations to come, can live in a safe, clean, healthy and resilient world.


Thank you.



[1] Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’, of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home

[2] Ibid.

[3] Mother Earth Foundation

[4] Status of the Rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, DENR-Manila Bay Coordinating Office | October 2013

[5] EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace and Mother Earth Foundation; “Plastic bags most common trash in Manila Bay – groups”, Pia Ranada, Rappler | July 5, 2014

[6] “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean”, Jenna R. Jambeck, Roland Geyer, Chris Wilcox, Theodore R. Siegler, Miriam Perryman, Anthony Andrady, Ramani Narayan, Kara Lavender Law; Science 13 February 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6223 pp. 768-771, DOI: 10.1126/science.1260352

[7] Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’, of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home