The Philippines sits on the typhoon belt in the Pacific and experiences an annual average of 20 typhoons, which cause deaths and agricultural and infrastructure damages.
For instance, during the last few weeks, tropical depressions/storm Henry, Inday, and Josie dumped heavy rain on Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon. They soaked and stranded hundreds of commuters, flooded roads in low-lying areas, and caused evacuation centers to be filled, office and school operations to be suspended, and hospitals to be crowded with patients with water-borne diseases.
Flooding occurs during heavy downpours. Solid waste remains a leading cause of flood and water-borne diseases in Metro Manila. In fact, you may have seen the video footage of garbage along the Manila Bay seawall after heavy rainfall.
Waste generation continues to increase following the ballooning population in the capital. And government, despite its urbanization programs such as creating new central business districts in provinces such as Pampanga and Davao and relocating informal settlers in more habitable communities, cannot keep up with the volume of waste in Metro Manila.
In Manila, garbage is not segregated despite the city’s well-written laws and waste management campaigns.
This problem exists partly because we Filipinos lack a sense of civic duty. According to Justice Antonio Carpio, civic duty refers to our obligation to leave our country a better place than we found it.
Most of us are concerned only with our assets; beyond our possessions, we do not want to take responsibility.
For example, car owners or drivers throw their trash out of car windows instead of keeping it inside their cars and disposing of it properly later. Despite knowing the growing environmental problems, they prioritize the cleanliness of their cars over the cleanliness of the streets. Nevertheless, it is not too late for us — regardless of our socioeconomic class — to learn the importance of keeping our environment clean.
Despite the number of street sweepers during the day, garbage — from food wrappers to big boxes — is present everywhere because no one wants to be responsible for the waste. But having easy access to trash bins may gradually discipline us in properly disposing of our waste. A candy wrapper may be saved from being thrown into the drainage system if garbage containers are just a few steps away.
Thus, laws related to trash bin management should be formulated and implemented. City mayors should provide durable steel trash bins that can be bolted onto sidewalks to prevent their theft. Government offices, private establishments, and local vendors should be required to provide trash bins within their vicinities. These acts will support MMDA Regulation Number 96-009 or the Anti-Littering Law. People will not litter if they have easy access to waste disposal facilities.
Another practice that can help us dispose of our waste properly is the “Clean as You Go” (CLAYGO) system. Fastfood chains, convenience stores, and even small eateries can implement the CLAYGO policy on their own.
These practices can be seen as effective whenever we are inside schools, office buildings, and other private facilities. But when we step out of these exclusive zones, we seem to forget our obligation to our environment!
Government efforts alone cannot change our environment. We need to change our mindsets and habits to achieve a clean environment, which is vital for health and well-being. We need to adopt the “Basura ko, sagot ko” mentality.
A society’s development is judged by its cleanliness. Let us fulfill our civic duty as Filipino citizens so that future generations will still have the resources that we are enjoying today.
Angelique C. Blasa is a lecturer at the Management and Organization Department of Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University.