Thursday, April 8, 2010

More eco-pledges from presidential bets

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

GREENPEACE AND ECOWASTE COALITION have just released the second and third batches of the Green Electoral Initiatives (GEI) survey results based on the presidential candidates’ position on environmental issues.
I have been privy to the GEI survey since the beginning, during the survey work and the evaluation of the candidates’ responses. A good number of responses are quite impressive and reveal a lot about the candidates’ “greenness,” their knowledge of the issues and the solutions they would implement if elected. The overall ranking will be released on or before Earth Day, April 22.
I must say that just as important as the rankings, which the evaluators gave each candidate for every major issue, is the quality and content of the individual responses. Our hope is that these candidates will stay firm in their positions and be part of the solutions, wherever they will be after the elections, that is, win or lose.

I will not take up rankings now but I would like to say that the GEI survey has indeed forced the presidential bets to think and articulate their platforms. For the electorate’s part, we could later make them deliver on their green promises.

On the issue of solid waste management, seven of the nine presidential bets are in favor of an outright or eventual ban on single-use plastic bags and other plastic-based disposable containers, which are largely blamed for clogged waterways, floods and ocean pollution.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III, Sen. Richard Gordon, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Sen. Manuel Villar, Councilor JC de los Reyes, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas and evangelist Eddie Villanueva are in favor of an eventual ban. They are aware of the wastefulness and the ecological harm resulting from the unchecked disposal of plastic trash in dumps, storm drains and water bodies.

(Former President Joseph Estrada and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro did not participate in the GEI survey.)

Some are proposing specific measures to curb plastic bag use in the country which, according to Madrigal, would be about 16 million plastic bags daily. Like Gordon and Perlas, Madrigal is also proposing the imposition of taxes and disincentives. Aquino and Villar want vigorous efforts to maximize plastic waste recovery, re-use and recycling.

Perlas gives clear-cut proposals on how to improve the implementation of RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and move the country away from dirty waste disposal towards Zero Waste.

His five-point action plan consists of the following: 1) accelerating the adoption of zero waste management, 2) restructuring the whole garbage disposal system to enable segregation at source, composting of organic wastes, recycling of non-biodegradable waste, and proper disposal of toxic wastes (including medical wastes), 3) establishing strategic partnerships with civil society and business, 4) highlighting and rewarding cities and towns that have exemplary solid waste management systems, and 5) instituting a well thought-out system of taxes and incentives that can address the challenge of plastic waste and promote sustainable waste management.

Perlas may be among the cellar dwellers but there are many things candidates for any position could learn from him. After all, there are no patents, no intellectual property rights on green. The more copycats the better.

Gordon warns: “I will give local governments a firm deadline to properly implement their waste management plans, but if they continue to fail, I will not hesitate to use my powers of supervision and control as chief executive.”

Madrigal will direct the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources within the first 100 days of her office to submit an inventory report of non-compliant local government units and demand immediate accountability.

“Zero Waste must be deeply ingrained in our citizens as a cultural practice for it to have nationwide impact,” Villanueva adds.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Von Hernandez says banning single-use plastic bags is indeed vital in solving the waste crisis.

EcoWaste president Roy Alvarez says: “The expressed intent of the seven presidential bets to act against plastics pollution should send a strong signal to the National Solid Waste Management Commission about the urgent need to impose a policy that will effectively phase out and ultimately ban single-use plastic bags. The commission has been remiss in performing this mandate, opting to kowtow instead to the vested interests of plastic manufacturers.”

The presidential bets even tackle lead-free paints and sound like consumer advocates.

Gordon, Madrigal and Villar point to the health and environmental hazards posed by lead in paints, with Gordon stressing that “we cannot allow toxins that severely affect human health—and intellectual capacity at that—to proliferate.”

Perlas and Villanueva stress that alternatives to lead in paints exist. “But,” Perlas adds, “we need a strong consumer protection agency that is free from inappropriate industry influence, one that involves civil society participation.”

On the broader issue of chemical safety, Perlas, Gordon, Villanueva and Madrigal offer the most extensive inputs, impressing the GEI evaluators. They propose the integration of chemical safety into the country’s health, environment and development agenda through consumer information and education, product labeling, and public disclosure of chemicals in materials, products and wastes.

Yes, they are speaking the green language. More on Earth Day.