A reader’s view on waste management
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - June 29, 2019 - 12:00am

I received an email this week from Mr. Heinz Ernst, a German national living in Cebu for about 40 years already. He gave his comments about my column last Tuesday entitled “Plastic waste-free Cebu”. With his permission, I am sharing his views about the topic.

“Unfortunately I see every day people just tossing away plastic bags. Seems normal here, after use (they) throw it away without any thinking. If you don’t educate at childhood, it will never change here. Besides I have not seen anyone fined or arrested for littering,” Mr. Ernst wrote.

“In Germany, my country, if you like a plastic bag at the cashier/counter, you pay for it. Most people bring their own reusable bag. Or you grab an empty carton in the grocery section – for free and you put your items in. But this all comes down to “discipline”. Sadly, the Philippines is worldwide number three on plastic waste pollution, after China and Indonesia.”

“One way is, fine them (the violators). That’s where it hurts, on the wallet,” Mr. Ernst added. Regular waste collection service is also very important, he said. “Where I live (subdivision), collection (of garbage) should be twice a week. But sometimes (it’s done only) once a week or none (at all). So garbage is piling up. Plus people do not segregate properly.” Mr. Ernst suggested that the garbage collector could advice the maids, residents, etc. about proper (waste) segregation.

I agree with Mr. Ernst that solid waste management should be a community effort. There seems to be a mentality that the government should take care of everything that has to do with garbage. To some extent, the government has a bigger responsibility in solid waste disposal, especially in urban areas. But that model has often failed.

Studies show that solid waste management problems of cities can be addressed in large part by the interaction of several actors or stakeholders. “National, state and local governments, research institutions and the academic, the public, NGOs, the private sector and funding agencies will all have a role to play to support priority actions,” wrote Kurian Joseph in a 2006 study published in the Habital International scientific journal.

Stakeholders are businesses and other enterprises, organizations, households and all others who are engaged in some waste management activity. They may be generators of waste, service providers, or just concerned with certain aspects of waste management which include generation, source reduction, storage, handling, collection, treatment and disposal, Joseph said.

The entire community should play a role in sustainable solid waste management. Foremost of which is the campaign to reduce waste. Garbage collection costs enormous sums to public coffers. Aside from buying and maintaining the trucks, the government has to develop the large landfill and pay for the labor of garbage personnel.

Unfortunately, many of our citizens treat the streets and other public areas as one big dumpsite. This behavior can be traced to our “kanya-kanya” or “iya-iya” mentality. People who break a sweat to have clean households are the very same people who litter the streets with their own trash and throw their garbage unsegregated into the community dump.

Another manifestation of that “iya-iya” mentality, if I may now digress, is the poor design of our interior or secondary roads. I’ve always observed this in many places in the Philippines when I pass by the streets going to exclusive or posh subdivisions. Public roads leading to these subdivisions are usually narrow and poorly built and maintained, and made even narrower by the lack of setback from the road. Such lack of setback actually shows both disrespect of easement laws and lack of willingness of property owners to share a portion of their roadside property with the community.

This condition in our public roads is a stark difference from the condition inside those exclusive subdivisions. I can only laugh at the absurdity of it all – like, what’s the point of living in your own posh enclave when you still have to pass by those bad roads every day to and from your house? Many people are even more than willing to pay for costly village security to keep them safe from a problematic community outside.

Yet perhaps, the most stark example of our poor community spirit is our lack of a decent mass transportation system and the absence of community-wide unity of action and urgency on this issue. Iya-iya palit ug awto, dayon magdungan ug balikas sa traffic. ianmanticajon@gmail.com


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