INDIVIDUAL BEHAVIOR — such as improper waste disposal — is exacerbating the effects of climate change.  

“Climate change is creating more severe weather events. Metro Manila can barely handle the heaviest rains, and we have areas that are naturally low-lying — from houses to streets, subdivisions, and even cities,” said Ricardo Noel R. Gervasio, supervising health program officer of the Health Promotion Bureau, in an April 7 webinar organized by the World Health Organization-Philippines. “What more if we exacerbate the problem by illegally dumping garbage?”  

There are 1,500 tons of garbage that are either dumped or burned illegally in Metro Manila alone, he added, citing the Asian Development Bank’s Garbage Book.  

“For context, a compact sedan — let’s say a Toyota Vios — weighs around one ton,” Mr. Gervasio told the webinar audience. “Imagine burning or dumping 1,500 Toyota Vioses everyday… and that’s just from illegal dumping.”  

Garbage is the “number one cause” of flooding in Metro Manila as it blocks drainage, said former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benjamin de Castro Abalos, Jr. in a June 2021 news report.  

Flooding can lead to waterborne diseases such as leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that people are susceptible to when they have to wade through contaminated water. It can also cause dengue outbreaks, as stagnant bodies of water become breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.  

Practicing proper hygiene, including hand washing, becomes very important in the face of climate change, said Mr. Gervasio: “On the one hand, we have to warn people against drinking contaminated water during the rainy season. On the other hand, you have to remind people to conserve water for times when there isn’t enough to go around.”   

Climate change touches all seven areas in the bureau’s Health Promotion Framework Strategy: diet and exercise; environmental health; vaccine and immunization; substance use; mental health; sexual and reproductive health; and violence and injury prevention.    

Mr. Gervasio added that the upcoming elections will be key in implementing the national health roadmap: “Our votes count and can shape climate change resilience, the environmental impact our community has, and health in general.” — Patricia B. Mirasol