Earth Day: Dispose of face masks properly
Sand covers a discarded face mask on a beach.

Earth Day: Dispose of face masks properly

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang reminded the public to dispose of used face masks properly as the world celebrated Earth Day yesterday.

“During the time of the pandemic, even small acts would help, like disposing of used face masks and face shields properly. Let’s do it and teach our children how to do it,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.

“This is a special day to remind everyone of the importance of taking care of and protecting mother nature for the next generation,” he added.

Roque said the government also aims to finish 535 kilometers of bike lanes before the end of the year. He noted that the government has so far built 296 kilometers of bike lanes with pavement markings, bollards, curbs and solar studs.

The Palace spokesman also emphasized that the Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“Because of this, the issue of climate change is relevant to the Philippines,” Roque said.

Climate-change preparedness

In celebration of the Earth Day, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) urged the local government units (LGUs) to invest in Risk Resiliency Program (RRP) to boost the country’s preparedness against the adverse impact of climate change.

“As we seek to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis and build the resiliency of our communities to the impacts of climate change, investments on the protection and restoration of our environment are imperative so we can deliver significant economic and environmental benefits at a time when both are urgently needed,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said at a recent virtual meeting on the RRP-Program Convergence Budgeting.

The RRP, formulated by the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCAM-DRR), is the government’s program in improving the resilience of the country’s natural systems and the adaptability of the communities living in climate hazard-vulnerable provinces and major urban areas.

Cimatu, who also chairs the CCAM-DRR, said there is an urgent need to create communities better prepared to deal with future disruptions similar to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis, including massive flooding.

Citing reports, Cimatu said 70 percent of cities in the country are already dealing with the effects of climate change.

DENR figures also showed that 90 percent of urban areas are in coastal regions, making them more at risk from sea-level rise and other climate-related threats.

“These impacts threaten to undermine decades of developmental milestones. Only through integrating climate and disaster risks, as well as potential opportunities into our development planning and budget can we build resilient and sustainable societies,” Cimatu said.

The DENR had earlier identified provinces and major urban areas vulnerable to climate hazards. These include Masbate, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Negros Oriental, Western Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte, Siquijor, Sarangani, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Zamboanga del Norte, Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Iloilo and Metro Davao.

The agency said priority must be given to these areas as they are not only heavily exposed to climate hazards, but also have high poverty incidence rates.

The DENR said LGUs, especially in these identified vulnerable areas, must consider in their planning and budget allocation the key investments under the RRP, such as community livelihood and enterprise continuity project, integrated water resources management project, enhancing coastal protection project, climate information services and seismic resiliency.

During the virtual meeting of the CCAM-DRR, Environment Undersecretary for finance, information systems and climate change Analiza Rebuelta-Teh stressed the need to streamline the management of health care and infectious wastes, especially at the community and household levels.

Teh said the protection and conservation of natural resources, especially in degraded hot spots and critical ecosystems, must also be prioritized.

She added that water security, especially in COVID-19 pandemic-affected areas, should also be ensured.

These policy actions are aligned with the priorities and strategies set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, according to Teh.

‘Community pantry’ of energy

Describing it as a “community pantry” of energy, a climate justice and environment advocate has renewed calls for support to the shift to renewable energy.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Saño yesterday said the Philippines must seriously look at its energy systems and continue the journey in energy transition to safe, clean, resilient, affordable and sustainable.

“Renewable energy, in my mind, is like a community pantry of energy – nature gives us what it can afford to give, and we take only what we need. It also harnesses not only literal energy, (but) also … the power of social cohesion and bayanihan,” Saño said during the Pandesal Forum held in time for the commemoration of Earth Day yesterday.

“The policies, measures and actions we take to pursue development must be inclusive and climate-responsive,” he added.

A former commissioner of the Climate Change Commission, Saño recalled the earthquake and massive tsunami that resulted in the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.

Recently, the Japanese government decided to allow the discharge of radioactive waste water from the Fukushima nuclear power facility into the Pacific Ocean, prompting condemnation from the international community.

“This compelling example must push our own country to seriously look at our energy systems, and build safe, resilient, affordable, clean and sustainable energy systems,” Saño said, noting how the disaster happened despite Japan’s higher economic development and robust risk management systems.

The Philippines, he added, is no different from Japan, in terms of hazards involving earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and storm surges.

“What may be an artificially financially cheap option, could very well be the costliest option, if you take into account the further damage to people’s health, livelihoods and the environment,” Saño said.

Pursuing massive economic development should avoid the mistakes of the industrialized countries and embrace solutions that would serve the people well in the long term, according to the the Greenpeace Southeast Asia official.

“The pandemic should have taught us a lot of lessons. And we should learn from it,” Saño said.

“The pandemic has clearly shown us how much crises are making already challenging situations even worse for our communities suffering food insecurity, compromised livelihoods, and other impacts of climate emergency,” he added. – Elizabeth Marcelo, Janvic Mateo, Ramon Efren Lazaro

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