Here’s a report from inquirer.net that is related to my previous post about the group Alliance For A Cleaner Earth or ACE.
Plastics and ‘Ondoy’
By Rina Jimenez-David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE MINUTE floodwaters from last year’s “Ondoy” disaster receded enough to allow vehicles on the road, my husband and I motored to SM Marikina to buy food supplies and other necessities, such as plastic pails and basins, brooms and a transistor radio.
As we sped along Marcos Highway, I wondered if there was a fiesta being celebrated as light posts and the fence on the traffic island was festooned with what looked like bunting. On closer inspection, the “bunting” turned out to be plastic bags and trash snagged on the posts and on the chicken wire of the fence, swaying in the wind and lending a cheery air to an otherwise somber atmosphere, what with mounds of dried mud on the road and roadsides, and disabled vehicles littering the highway.
The plastic trash could be spotted throughout the stretch of Marcos Highway, obviously borne by the floodwaters. The sight of them brought home the predominance of plastic material among the flotsam in our drains and ditches, leading one to speculate if these did not perhaps contribute to the extraordinary level of flooding that swamped much of Metro Manila almost a year ago.
These suspicions would seem to have been bolstered by a statement issued recently by the Alliance for a Cleaner Earth (ACE), a group of outdoor sports enthusiasts and environmentalists calling for measures to stop what it calls “plastic pollution.” The group sees the amount of plastic trash as a “major cause of the regular flooding experienced in Metro Manila and solid waste pollution in all parts of the country—from beaches to mountains, from creeks and rivers to seas all over the archipelago.”
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ONDOY, said ACE, was a “wake-up call that should have been heeded” since plastic trash has been found to be a major cause of blocked drainage and floodways.
The government, said the group, could adopt and enforce measures that will drastically reduce the amount of plastic materials, as part of climate change adaptation measures. Among these are the creation, adoption and enforcement of a “plastics pollution tax” to be levied on all products that are packaged in plastic. In Ghana, said the group, both producers and consumers of products packed in plastic bear the burden of the tax.
Such a measure could be an expansion of a plastics tax bill recently filed in Congress covering plastic bottles, pouches, sachets, wrappers, etc. HB 127 seeks to levy a tax of P2.50 “for every plastic bag used at the point of sale of goods or products.” Indeed, the proposed plastics pollution tax would increase the price of goods packaged in plastic, and would in fact force consumers to buy fewer products packaged in plastic and force producers as well to seek alternative means of distributing their products. Moreover, said ACE, they hope the tax will “lead to the creation of a fund that would be used for the retrieval and proper disposal of plastic waste.”
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WHILE we wait for the bill to make its way through Congress, and then wait even longer as the concerned bodies begin to implement the tax, there are some questions that need to be answered now as we approach the Ondoy anniversary.
First, what has the task force or commission created in the wake of Ondoy accomplished so far? I know the former President appointed tycoon Manuel Pangilinan to head this body, but aside from some preliminary steps, nothing has been heard from it since.
Second, what have local governments, especially in towns and cities badly affected by Ondoy, done to mitigate the impact of heavy rains and flooding? Have they at the very least inspected particular areas where flooding was pretty bad and begun to either dredge, clear or clean up waterways and routes for floodwater? Are they even now collecting all the plastic trash from drains to make sure these don’t cause floods in the event of heavy rain?
At the same time, have measures been taken to enable local governments to respond rapidly in cases not just of typhoons and flooding but of other natural disasters like earthquakes, volcano eruptions and landslides? In the first few weeks after Ondoy, we saw and heard a slew of suggestions, like re-designing barangay halls and equipping these with rescue boats and other rescue equipment, coming up with a system of alarm bells, sirens and other means to alert residents of incoming danger, and even clearing the floodways of obstructions to make sure floodwater makes it way to Manila Bay or Laguna de Bay. Have any of these measures been implemented?
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ENVIRONMENT experts had a single message in the course of numerous briefings held in the face of tremendous media interest post-Ondoy. And this was: Ondoy can and will happen again, and sooner than we think. This is because, they said, measures that should have been taken decades ago to mitigate flooding in Metro Manila and other urbanized parts of the country were either ignored or laid aside due to lack of funds.
At the same time, local governments and private developers have tampered needlessly (but profitably) with nature, filling creeks, rivers and even lakes to build subdivisions or commercial centers. Others have not only felled trees but entire hillsides and mountains to build not just homes and commercial establishments, but also golf courses, resorts and casinos.
Ondoy, as many commentators said, was nature’s way of warning us that we abuse her at our own risk. But a repeat of Ondoy—and I don’t doubt that it will happen sooner rather than later—would be nature’s way of slapping some sense into us. It’s time we were shaken awake.