Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Climate Change and the Philippines

Recent scientific studies reveal that human activities have contributed significantly to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that causes climate change.

The Philippines is a hotspot for climate change disasters particularly the risk for agriculture and food security due to extreme El Nino and severe tropical cyclones. The spread of infectious diseases are influenced by fluctuations in climate variables, temperature, relative humidity and rainfall. Sever super typhoons like Reming that pummeled the Bicol region in 2006 destroyed at least $90-million worth of agricultural products and infrastructure.

Diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, cholera have increased throughout the years. Climate change impacts on coastal zones and marine ecosystems caused massive coral bleaching especially in 1998 due to elevated sea temperature and fish kills and red tides like the one that occurred in 1992 which was an El Nino period.


Scientists warned the Philippines could experience famine by 2020, as the adverse impact of global warming takes its toll on natural resources. Thousands will be displaced from their homes especially in low-lying coastal communities.

Decline of Natural Resources and Biodiversity

The Philippines is suffering from degradation of the natural environment. It has fifty major rivers now polluted due to abuse and neglect. Approximately two-thirds of the country's original mangroves have been lost. A hundred years ago, the Philippines had close to 22 million hectares of old growth forest. At the start of 2000, we had less than 600,000 hectares of old-growth forest left. In one century, we had cut down close to 97 percent of our original forest. A study by the Environmental Scientists for Social Change (ESSC) reveals that we have systematically cut this forest down and that we have not stopped its destruction and that of its core biodiversity.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that it takes over 4,000 liters of water to produce one kilo of rice. Because of the loss of forests, we have less water since most of our freshwater comes from watersheds found in forests. Therefore, loss of forests means loss of food.

More than 400 plant and animal species found in the Philippines are currently threatened with extinction, including the Philippine eagle, the tamaraw, and the dugong. In 2001, 49 of the nation's mammal species, 86 bird species, and 320 plant species were threatened with extinction. Endangered species in the Philippines include the monkey-eating eagle, Philippine tarsier, tamaraw, four species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherback), Philippines crocodile, sinarapan, and two species of butterflies. The Cebu warty pig, Panay flying fox, and Chapman's fruit bat have become extinct.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Alarming Waste Problem in the Philippines




The Philippines is looming with garbage problems despite the passage of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or the Republic Act (RA) 9003.

2007 first quarter data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission shows that there are 677 open dumpsites, 343 controlled dumps, and 21 landfills in the country. An additional 307 dump sites are subject for closure or rehabilitation plans but without definite schedules for enforcement. About 215 additional landfills are being proposed to be set up nationwide.

About 1,000 open and controlled dump sites exist in the country. Prominent dumps all over the country can be found in Antipolo and Montalban in Rizal; Baguio City; Calapan, Mindoro Oriental; Carmen, Cagayan de Oro; Mandurriao, Iloilo City; Obando, Bulacan; and San Pedro, Laguna.

Environmentalists stress that Republic Act 9003 calls for the adoption of the best environmental practices in ecological waste management and explicitly excludes waste incineration as an ecological option. These polluting disposal facilities are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere which adds to global warming.
Landfills and open dumps, according to studies, account for 34 percent of human-related methane emissions to the atmosphere, a global warming gas that has 23 times more heat-trapping power than carbon dioxide. These landfills and open dumps are illegal under RA 9003.

Incinerators, on the other hand, have significantly higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions (per kilowatt) than a coal-fired power plant when all of the carbon coming out of an incinerator stack is measured. Such emissions are banned by the country’s Clean Air Act.
Inaction on garbage contributes to the death of at least two persons every minute due to complications from environmental problems, which could be prevented if the country only developed a more efficient environmental management program.

Mismanagement of waste has serious environmental consequences: ground and surface water contamination, local flooding, air pollution, exposure to toxins, and spread of disease. Many of the disposal sites contain infectious material, thus threatening sanitation workers and waste-pickers.

Annual waste generation in the Philippines is expected to grow 40 percent by 2010. Improvements in recycling, collection, and disposal will become even more critical as garbage production continues to increase with population growth and economic development.

Past efforts to promote waste segregation at source have minimal impact despite the presence of Republic Act 9003. Most of these were barangay, city, and municipal ordinances providing for sanctions and penalties for non-compliance. Campaigns, seminars, trainings and other different community activities were implemented with the help of various private groups or NGO’s to pursue the objective of solving the garbage problem.

RA 9003 further calls for the establishment of materials recovery facilities, or ecology centers, in every barangay or cluster of a barangay. To date, only 1,923 ecology centers exist, serving 2,133 barangays of a total 41,975 nationwide. In Quezon City alone, only 52 barangays have established Materials Recovery Facilities out of a total of 142.

People’s Behavior Toward Waste
Behaviour is a key cultural aspect that is embedded in people’s way of life. Studying a community’s behavior and introducing new ones requires intensive, long-term, and creative social marketing. This can be done by studying the demographic and cultural fiber of the community through immersions and capacity building activities.


The Resources, Environment and Economics Center for Studies, Inc.’s (REECS) 2002 study on household waste management systems and the attitudes and behavior of the communities in two barangays in Metro Manila ( Bennagen, Nepomuceno, Covar, 2002) showed that:

1. Waste management is still perceived by many as the responsibility of government.
2. Public participation in waste management, especially in segregation at source, remains limited.
3. More extensive awareness- raising activities and training on ecological waste management are needed, together with stricter enforcement of the Law and local ordinances must be observed.
4. There is lack of community empowerment and political will to resolve the problem.

Recognizing the importance of the environment’s immediate recovery and effects of improper waste management to the Philippines, there is a need for understanding and reformation of attitudes and concern towards the protection of environment. The impending garbage crisis can be prevented if we only practice waste segregation at source, recycling, and composting as what the law requires. An intensive social marketing program has to be established on a long-term scale within a barangay – the smallest unit of the local government.