Speech: 2nd National Integrated Waste Management Exhibition

June 21, 2016

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
2nd National Integrated Waste Management Exhibition
21 June 2016 | SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City


We are living in a world with finite resources and yet generations have lived over the centuries like there is no tomorrow.


Our natural environment has been compromised. Our biological diversity has been significantly reduced and the general health of our environment is conceded to the greed of some. Our ecosystems have been altered more rapidly in the name of development; but the poor have remained poor and their numbers are increasing notwithstanding the emergence of megacities and the increasing GDPs of nations.  This only underscores the need to establish accountability for environmental issues.


The effects of our exploitative activities are evident in the increased frequency and volume of natural hazards that turn into disasters and that cause disruptions in our lives, and even loss of lives.


Losses due to Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009 were equivalent to 2.7% of the country’s GDP; while damage from Supertyphoon Yolanda is estimated at P101.79 Billion, representing 0.9% of GDP for 2013.


Each year, five million lives are lost due to climate change and the health impacts of its chief driver — fossil fuels.[1] The World Health Organization estimates direct damage costs to health alone at between 2 and 4 billion dollars each year by 2030.[2]


The irony here is that, the things we want to gain and develop through the use of ecosystem services, are the very same things we lose due to exploitation and unsustainable use of our natural resources.


In the global effort to address environmental issues, numerous international instruments were passed, among the most recent is the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which aims to limit global temperature rise within the century “well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”


At the local level, numerous laws have also been introduced not just to demand accountability for environmental issues but to also provide impetus to incorporate environmental concerns into planning and policy making.


The presence of these international agreements and local laws, however, does not automatically guarantee results.


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 every local government unit’s faithful compliance with this law.


It has been 15 years since the law was passed, but according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), as of 2015, only 36 percent, or 545 local government units (LGUs), have complied with all aspects of this legislation.[3]


In 2013, the Office of the Ombudsman, through its Environmental Ombudsman, led the launch of the “Solid Waste Management Law Voluntary Compliance Program.”


Phase 1 of the program was the conduct of LGUs’ self-assessment based on their compliance with the provisions of RA 9003. Letters were sent to 1,634 LGUs but only 417 conducted self-assessment—135 LGUs assessed themselves as satisfactorily compliant and 282 assessed themselves as less satisfactory.[4]


Now, the Environmental Ombudsman is in its Phase 2 of the program, the filing of cases against non-compliant LGUs, particularly those that still operate open dumpsites, have not built MRFs, do not implement segregation at source, and have not submitted a 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan.


The grace period has long been overdue. It is time that those who have failed to comply with the law face the legal consequences of such irresponsible leadership.


As the Ombudsman proceeds with its legal action against erring LGUs, I also encourage everyone, every citizen, every household to do their respective share in implementing the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law.


The heart of the ESWM Law is its inherent purpose towards a paradigm shift, a change to a low carbon, zero waste lifestyle. That is why segregation at source is among the main facets of the law because implementation must start in our own homes.


The ESWM Law and the multitude of environmental laws we have—Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Renewable Energy Law, Climate Change Act, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law, People’s Survival Fund Law, among others—are instruments in ensuring that we are going towards sustainable and resilient development.


We are in the midst of a global crisis caused by climate change. The greenhouse gases (GHG) that have become trapped in our atmosphere have caused the rapid rise of the Earth’s temperature and it is affecting our lives and our future as we experience extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity, food instability, among other impacts.


We need to translate our laws and policies into urgent action. As individuals, we must concretize our participation in climate action and make it part of our daily living by adopting a low carbon lifestyle.


Low carbon lifestyle is the conscious effort by individuals and communities to change their daily routine and practices to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to create carbon dioxide sinks. The aggregate of these individual and community efforts will considerably mitigate climate change.  Learning how to manage our local resources will eventually lead to the sustainability of our country. Ultimately, the objective is to help the world manage its ecological assets more judiciously so that humanity can live within the Earth’s limitations.


The effective implementation of the ESWM Law is part of our climate mitigation efforts as it promotes not only the efficient and eco-friendly management of our solid waste, but also adopting a zero waste lifestyle, which means reusing, recycling, upcycling, avoiding buying unnecessary goods and patronizing products that produce zero to minimal waste.


I hope that through this event, we will all be able to further push for the full implementation of the ESWM Law and map out strategies that will respond to the environmental challenges facing the nation.


We all live in one Earth. Climate change is now in our midst and it imparts to us the lesson that we do not own the planet, but are mere dwellers and stewards of its resources.


Each of us has opportunities to make a difference for our future. We must take hold of the opportunity to responsibly manage our environment so that we, and the generations to come, can live in a safe, clean, healthy and resilient world.


Thank you.

[1] Climate Vulnerability Monitor, 2nd Edition, DARA, 2012

[2] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/

[3] Turning garbage into gold by Jonathan L. Mayuga – January 18, 2016 http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/turning-garbage-into-gold/

[4] Environmental Ombudsman Briefer on Solid Waste Management Law Voluntary Compliance Program