24 July 2020, Quezon City. Environmental advocates belonging to the EcoWaste Coalition urged President Rodrigo Duterte to put the well-being of Mother Earth and the 109 million Filipinos at the center of the government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy and plan that is expected to be unveiled in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) this coming Monday.
“We anticipate the president’s 5th SONA to unwrap the government’s detailed strategy and plan to rebuild the society from the unparalleled health, economic and humanitarian crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. With a green and just recovery strategy and plan, the government can resuscitate our battered economy in ways that will uplift the people’s lives, particularly those living on the margins of society like the informal waste communities, while ensuring the protection of the ecosystems from dirty energy sources, polluting processes and wasteful products, and toxic disposal technologies,” said Eileen Sison, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
“We hope to hear that the government will be sane enough to stop the approval and implementation of environmentally destructive waste-to-energy incineration and mining projects,” said Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director of Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS). “Have we not seen enough destruction of the environment and why is it bad for public health? This pandemic should have made us all realize that public health is closely related to environmental health and sustainability.”
“May President Duterte find the wisdom to declare in his SONA the war against the deliberate mismanagement of waste by some local government units through their willful neglect of abiding by the very simple and pro-environment provisions of R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” said Rene Pineda, President, Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF).
Speaking in Tagalog, community leader Noli Abinales, founder of Buklod Tao, said: “Ang bawat buhay ay mahalaga. Pangangalagaan sana ng pamahalaan ang buhay na matatagpuan sa sangkatauhan at sa kalikasan upang nang sa gayun ay magiging malusog ang bawat Pilipino at ang ekolohiya ng Inang Bayang Pilipinas. Ang pagpapahalaga sa buhay at kalikasan ay patampukin sana sa SONA.”
For a green and just recovery from the deleterious impacts of COVID-19, the environmental groups expressed the need to prioritize the adoption and eventual implementation of key pollution prevention laws and environmental justice policies, including:
1. The rejection of bills rescinding the ban on waste incineration under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and those espousing waste-to-energy incineration;
2. The enactment of a comprehensive ban on single-use plastics and the promotion of alternative product packaging and delivery systems;
3. The adoption of extended producer responsibility that will make manufacturers, importers, and distributors responsible for the retrieval, recycling, treatment or disposal of post-consumer products;
4. The ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment prohibiting the transfer of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries, and the imposition of a national ban on waste imports, including electronic waste, plastic waste, and other wastes;
5. The environmentally sound management of infectious COVID-19 waste sans the use of incinerators or crematories；
6. The propagation of urban container gardening/farming and household composting as practical solutions to waste, hunger and health woes;
7. The provision of secure, safe and sustainable jobs and livelihoods for the informal waste sector；and last but not least
8. The passage of a ”Rights of Nature” law that will provide the highest level of legal protection to the natural ecosystems and processes amid the climate, biodiversity, plastic, and COVID-19 crises.
“The SONA, we hope, will put in motion a roadmap to a green and just recovery where the interests of Mother Earth and her children rank first over and above ‘business as usual’ schemes,” the groups said.
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