EDITORIAL — Saving Earth

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL � Saving Earth

The country joins Earth Day activities today with environmental issues capturing public attention. In Bohol, the national and local governments must clarify policies on development in the Chocolate Hills, balancing the need to preserve the protected area while allowing sustainable tourism.

Balancing economic growth and commercial development with environmental protection is also needed in the massive reclamation projects approved by the Duterte administration in Manila Bay while national attention was diverted to a cleanup of Boracay island. In Bulacan, fishermen are lamenting the loss of their livelihoods while residents are suffering from massive flooding, which they blame on reclamation and construction along coastal communities.

It’s not just Manila Bay. Laguna de Bay keeps getting smaller and more polluted from ongoing feverish reclamation, endangering the fish and fresh water supplies of Greater Manila, with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources seemingly unmindful, unwilling or unable to stop the activities. At the Masungi Georeserve, a non-government organization engaged in protecting the area is fighting with the DENR and the Bureau of Corrections.

On top of pollution and anything-goes development is the existential threat posed by climate change. The country, which has one of the world’s most extensive coastlines, is among the most vulnerable to rising ocean temperatures. Global warming is threatening Philippine agriculture and fisheries production, aggravating food insecurity especially among poor households. Sustainable forestry has yet to be institutionalized. Denuded watersheds have led to deadly landslides and catastrophic flooding during the wet season.

Over half a century since a mass protest in New York City launched Earth Day in 1970, there has been progress in efforts to protect the planet, but the challenges keep evolving and piling up. This year, Earth Day is focused on pursuing a 60 percent reduction in the production of plastics by 2049, and the approval of the United Nations Global Plastic Treaty.

The plastics campaign is best accompanied by an equally aggressive effort to promote proper waste disposal. All types of waste, not just plastics, end up polluting the seas and communities. People must be made aware that drainage systems clogged by garbage cause flooding, that piles of garbage draw vermin and disease-causing mosquitoes, and that polluted lakes and seas endanger the food supply. This Earth Day, simply tossing used tissue and food discards into a garbage bin would be a meaningful contribution in saving the planet.

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