Garbage In…
January 23, 2007, 10:12 am
Filed under: garbage

…  and voila! Art!

Environmental Art Assemblages.  A new friend, rj , is the brains behind it, transforming a gazillion ceramic tile pieces into a giant mural masterpiece — and I must say, that’s patience and creativity to a very high degree.

Which brings me to the fact that there is money in garbage.  There’s the KILUS Foundation, who made “bazura bags” a craze (i believe they have a shop in Tiendesitas), and then I remember having watched this business show in ABS featuring an entrep who makes “angels and other figures” out of corn husks. 

sewing crafts holyspirit 

With a little creativity, you could turn garbage into art — or craft, and earn money.  It’s a win-win thing, you’ll not only earn but you’ll be able to protect the environment as well.

 PS: More on RJ and his art at


An Inconvenient Truth
January 23, 2007, 9:19 am
Filed under: climate change

inconvenienttruth inconvenienttruth inconvenienttruth

Do something for our Earth. Please watch “An Inconvenient Truth”.

Water is Life
January 23, 2007, 9:00 am
Filed under: water

March 22 marked yet another milestone for the Philippine environment as water took its front seat in the national legislative, through the enactment of the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 (Republic Act No. 9275), during the National Water Forum in celebration of the World Water Day.

Undeniably, this year’s observance of the World Water Day justly magnified the importance of water and its contribution to the sustenance of life on Earth, and, the National Water Forum’s theme “Securing Our Future: Effectively Managing Water Now” is nothing short of a wake-up call, a reminder for all to collectively manage this precious natural resource.

Now for the future… Indeed, water is of primal concern, and it is up to the leaders and citizens of today to act, preserve, revive, and save this once-pristine resource.

Living Dead

Water is life and its quality dictates the state of living all over the world. The state of water in the Philippines, an archipelago endowed with lush natural resources, has tremendously gone low over the last years, as effected by urbanization and industrialization, and the rapid growth of human population. World Bank’s Philippines Environment Monitor 2003 revealed four urban regions of the country, the National Capital Region (Metro Manila), Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and Central Visayas, as critical in terms of water quality and quantity. Moreover, the report indicated the following:• Just over a third or 36 percent of the country’s river systems are classified as sources of public water supply;• Up to 58 percent of groundwater sampled is contaminated with coliform and needs treatment;

• Approximately 31 percent of illnesses monitored for a five-year period were caused by water-borne sources; and,

• Many areas are experiencing a shortage of water supply during the dry season.

The facts provide a clear view of the crisis the Philippines is faced with, dilemmas not only in terms of water quality, but also of sufficient water supply.

Water is a priority, and each sector must do something to address such a predicament.

Rescuing the Shore

In observance of the World Water Day, the Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Elisea Gozun, as chair to the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) led the National Water Forum, congregating leaders from different government agencies, academic and research institutions, multi-lateral and bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) partners, international organizations, legislative, media, NGOs, and the civil society.

The Forum, with its 300 participants, became a venue for the presentation and discussion of priority actions and policy recommendations set by government agencies in the water sector. Issues put in focus include the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM); Domestic Water Supply and Sanitation; Water for Food and Rural Development; Water-Related Disaster; and, Risk Mitigation and Water Demand Management.The National Water Forum was held in agreement with the Ministerial Declaration during the 1st Ministerial Meeting on “Managing Water Resources” at the First Southeast Asia Water Forum held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in November 21, 2003, advocating IWRM implementation, basin approach, taking into account the critical role water resources play in the country’s socio-economic development.

Moreover, the World Water Day served as the most opportune time to enact the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 (Republic Act No. 9275), the law which would improve water quality in the Philippines. The President, Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, signed the Act in a ceremonial signing at the Kalayaan Hall in Malacañang, mandating the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to implement a comprehensive water management program to guarantee effective water utilization and conservation.

The DENR will serve as the primary government agency responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Act, in coordination with the local government units, and the following: Department of Health, Department of Science and Technology, NWRB, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Coast Guard, Local Water Utilities and Administration, Metropolitan Water and Sewerage System, Laguna Lake Development Authority, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Philippine Information Agency.

Securing our Future

Water is life – a resource which provides for the Earth the capacity to sustain lives, and with the status of our waters at hand, its conservation is no longer an option. Water conservation is an obligation among each and every citizen, with the government leading the path. As the theme for the National Water Forum suggests, let us all join hands and effectively manage our waters… now, for our future.


National Water Forum 2004. “Securing Our Future: Effectively Managing Water Now”. DENR. 2004.
Philippine Environment Monitor 2003. Water Quality. The World Bank Group. December 2003

Fight for Clean Air
January 23, 2007, 8:52 am
Filed under: air

How would you like to wear a gas mask?

You don’t think so? Consider this.

Every day, millions of Filipinos, most probably including you, brave the danger of having to breathe heavily polluted air. We could take our pick from a long list of diseases associated with dirty air – from headaches and visual impairment, asthma and chronic bronchitis, decreased lung functioning and premature death. Air has become a silent killer and we have but ourselves to blame for it. Countless smokers, plants and factories, cars, buses, and jeepneys – smoke-belchers, all these contribute to the sad state of our air as these are widespread across the country.

Air pollution kills, with an estimated 230 to 390 deaths in Metro Manila, as reported in the Department of Health’s June 2004 publication, “Public Health Monitoring: A Study under the Metro Manila Air Quality Improvement Sector Development Program”.

Suddenly, wearing a gas mask seems like a wise thing for us to do. And while we’re at it, we could help the government in saving the air.

The government, through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has long recognized the problem we have in air pollution, and has enacted Republic Act 8749, or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 to solve it, so that the country would achieve and maintain a quality of air safe and clean enough for us to breathe. Clean Air Act is our weapon as we fight for clean air, as we fight for life. And, if we could just allow ourselves to make some sacrifices for cleaner air, wearing a gas mask would not even need to be an option.

So, what has the government done for us so far?

Air Quality Monitoring. From being one of the most polluted cities in Asia in terms of suspended particulates, Metro Manila has attained a remarkable improvement in air quality.

Done through the Metro Manila Airshed Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network, air quality is monitored by EMB-DENR to generate necessary information in formulating a comprehensive air pollution management and control program for the country. Having started its operations in October 2003, the Monitoring Network consists of ten automatic stations that measure real time concentrations of Particulate Matter 10 (PM10) – small solid and liquid particles suspended in the air and include dust, smoke, metallic and mineral particles, soot, mist, and acid fumes. The Network also measures both criteria pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and ozone) and non-criteria pollutants (benzene, toluene, and xylene).

Emissions testing of motor vehicles prior to registration. The requirement for motor vehicles to pass an emission test prior to registration has been implemented in January 1, 2003. Since then, Certificates of Conformity for new motor vehicles are being issued by EMB-DENR to manufacturers or importers of motor vehicles to signify compliance with the numerical emission standards set by the IRR of the CAA. EMB-DENR also issues certificates for emission test equipment to ensure that the equipment of Private Emission Testing Centers (PETCs) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) emission testing centers conform with the specifications of the CAA. In 2004, the 377 PETCs nationwide tested a total of 3,064,141 motor vehicles. Of all of the PETCs monitored in Metro Manila, 76% have been recommended for cancellation of authorization. To date, DENR has suspended the operations of 25 unscrupulous PETCs, all of which had been caught red-handed issuing “no show” emission testing certificates.

Anti-Smoke Belching. Remember crossing EDSA and not being able to breathe? Buses and cars line up in traffic filling the whole stretch of EDSA with smog. Along EDSA, smoke literally gets in our eyes.

In September 2003, the DENR, with other government agencies and NGOs launched the Smoke-Free EDSA Campaign which aims to reduce the TSP level along EDSA by 20 percent at the end of 2003. The LTO reported a total of 20,261 apprehensions in 2003. In November 2004, the DENR intensified the Linis Hangin Program with components on Bantay Tambutso, Bantay Tsimineya and Bantay Sunog Basura which seek to address the three major sources of air pollution: motor vehicles, factory, and area sources. A total of 37,391 diesel vehicles have been apprehended for smoke belching in 2003 and 2004.

In 2004, there has been a 12% increase in compliant vehicles, and this year, from January to July, 36% out of the 10,556 flagged down vehicles passed the emission standards set in the CAA.

Emission test of stationary sources. It is not just motor vehicles that emit air pollution. Not too seldom have we known people, particularly children, complaining of health diseases out of the pollution emitted by factories in their respective communities. In 2004, the DENR conducted emissions testing of 213 stacks in 103 different facilities in the Metro Manila Airshed.

The Bantay Tsimineya component of the Linis Hangin Program intensified the monitoring of industries especially along CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela). Of the 74 stack sampling tests conducted in the area, 50 have been issued Notices of Violations (NOVs) and four Cease and Decease Orders (CDOs). Nationwide, 5,996 firms have been monitored, 602 stack sampling tests have been conducted, and 839 NOVs were issued in 2004. This year, from January to June, a total of 7,650 firms have already been monitored, with 570 NOVs issued by the DENR.

Airshed designation. The DENR has designated a total of 16 airsheds in the country including the four geothermal airsheds. This is in support of the country’s Air Quality Control Action Plan, to come up with a system in terms of air quality management. At present, sixteen airsheds have been designated: the Metro Manila airshed, which covers 17 cities and municipalities in Metro Manila, Region III Central Luzon (excluding Nueva Ecija) and Region IV-A (excluding Quezon province); the Northeastern Pangasinan airshed which covers Binmaley, San Fabian, Lingayen, San Jacinto, Calasiao, Mangaldan, Binalonan, Malasiqui, Laoac, Mapandan, Pozorrubio, San Carlos City, Sison, Sta. Barbara, Urdaneta City, Dagupan City, San Manuel, and Manaoag; the Metro Tuguegarao (PIESTTA) airshed; the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) airshed covering Baguio City and the municipalities of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, and Tuba (BLIST); the Iloilo City airshed; the Naga City airshed; the Metro Cebu airshed, covering the municipalities of Naga, Minglanilla, Cordova, Consolacion, Liloan, Compostella, and the cities of Talisay, Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu Lapu; and the Geothermal airshed which covers the geothermal areas in Leyte, Southern Negros, Bacon-Manito.

Also designated are the Agusan del Norte airshed, which covers Buenavista, Cabadbaran, Carmen, Jabonga, Kitcharo, Las Nieves, Magallanes, Nasipit, Santiago, Tubay, and Remedios T. Romualdez; the Naga City airshed, covering Abella, Balatas, Bagumbayan Norte, Lerma, Liboton, Bagumbayan Sur, Pacol, Sta. Cruz, Concepcion Pequeña, Sabang, San Isidro, Dayangdang, Dinaga, Triangulo, Del Rosario, Tabuco, Cararayan, Panicuason, Tinago, Igualdad, Peñafrancia, Clauag, San Felipe, and San Francisco; the Cagayan de Oro City airshed, which covers the whole city and municipalities of Jasaan, Villanueva, Tagoloan, Opol, and El Salvador; the Zamboanga City airshed has been designated, covering the North-East-West Coast areas of the city; the Davao City airshed; the North Cotabato geothermal airshed; and the South Cotabato airshed.

Emissions Standards. The EMB set the maximum Hydrocarbon (HC) emissions from motorcycles and tricycles at 7,800 parts per million (ppm) for those operating in urban centers and 10,000 ppm for those operating in rural areas or outside of the urban centers [DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2003 – 25]. The Bureau also issued revised emissions standards for in-use gasoline-fed and diesel vehicles (DAO 2003 – 51). At present, the DENR is working for the development of a new Carbon Monoxide and Hydrocarbon emission standard for motorcycles and tricycles, upon recommendations to harmonize the Philippine emission regulations for motorcycles with the standards of other countries.

Fuels. In 2003, aromatics and benzene in gasoline have been reduced to 35% and 2% by volume, and sulfur content of automative diesel fuel to 0.05% by weight in 2004. A Technical Committee on Petroleum Products and Additives was created by the Department of Energy, formulating standard specifications for diesel, two-stroke (2T) lubricating oil, and Coco-Methyl Esters (CME) for blending with diesel.

Alternative Fuels. The use of alternative fuels such as the biodiesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), alcogas, al-gas, at alco-diesel are being pushed by the government, through the Clean Air Act. These fuels are environment-friendly, controlling smoke emissions from motor vehicles. These days, oil price hikes are becoming more and more rampant, making the use of alternative fuels a very wise move to make. In fact, government vehicles were required to use diesel fuel blended with 1% CME by the Malacañang Memorandum Circular No. 55

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Elimination Program. Advancement in science has brought about convenience for us in the fields of agriculture and medicine, and even in the business. However, these conveniences took a high price. The accumulation of chemical substances in the market has been proven to have an adverse effect to us and to the environment.

The Philippine Senate through Senate Resolution No. 106 ratified the Stockholm Convention on POPs on February 2, 2004. The resolution was submitted to the Stockholm Convention Secretariat on February 27, 2004 and became legally binding on May 27, 2004. The Convention is our avenue to manage and eventually eliminate POPs.

LGU Initiatives. The effectiveness of all government projects lies upon the proper implementation of the local governments. Best practices in terms of air quality management include the interest-free loan project of the City Government of San Fernando in La Union to operators of two-stroke tricycles for them to replace their two-stroke tricycles with four-stroke. The city of Makati has banned smoking in all public areas since 2003. Marikina City has dedicated 1.36 kilometers of its roads for bikeways using local funding and a US$ 50,000 grant from World Bank. This initiative is now being replicated all across the metropolis.

Tax Incentives. DENR extends assistance to industries installing pollution control devices or retrofitting of existing facilities with mechanisms that reduce emissions with the issuance of DAO 2004-53. This is aside from the Voucher System being implemented by EMB, intended to help fund for the Refrigeration and Aircon Service Shop Owners in the country for them to purchase the necessary equipment which would ensure proper handling and maintenance of aircondition and refrigeration equipments in homes and motor vehicles.

Air Quality Management Fund. The Air Quality Management Fund (DENR-Department of Budget and Management Joint Circular No. 2004-1) is a special account in the National Treasury to finance containment, removal, and clean-up operations of the Government in air pollution cases, guarantee restoration of ecosystems, and rehabilitate areas affected by CAA violators. The Air Quality Management Fund is also needed to support research, enforcement, and monitoring activities and capabilities of, as well as, to provide technical assistance to relevant agencies.

Public Awareness. The Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the DENR and the Environmental Education and Information Division (EEID) of the EMB, in cooperation with selected partners from the air-related institutions, developed multi-media materials and conducted training courses and fora on clean air. They also spearheaded the launching activities for the Smoke-Free EDSA Campaign in 2003 and the intensified Linis Hangin program in 2004. These are just some of the public awareness campaigns the government has undertaken to promote the importance of maintaining and having to breathe clean air. Information materials are readily available at the EMB office, and lectures and symposia are regularly conducted by the staff to ensure sustainability in terms of people’s knowledge of the Clean Air Act. We still have a long way to go as we clean our air. The government, as in all its projects, depends on the support of each and every one of us. Now that we know what the government has done, we only have two choices: to wear a gas mask, or, to help fight for clean air.Now tell us, which would you choose?

Managing Solid Waste in the Philippines: The Dirty Business
January 23, 2007, 8:14 am
Filed under: garbage

Solid waste, over the past thirty years, has remained the most visible, and silently dangerous, environmental problem in the country.

In September 1999, not one Filipino was left without a trauma out of the tragedy that befell Payatas in Quezon City. Hundreds died, buried alive underneath filth, as mountains of garbage collapsed due to heavy downpour.

This is among the worst human-made disasters that have ever hit the Philippines, a disaster we should never allow to happen again.

Dirty Living

The country’s garbage problem has a lot to do with lifestyle. Every individual must be responsible for the wastes he generates. Considering that we are among the most populated in the world, with the amount of trash each of us produces, it is no surprise that our lands have become the largest dumpsite.

Our streets are lined with garbage, our waters flooded, and our creeks clogged with trash, even our mountains are junk – all these are reflections of the need to heed to the serious call for waste management – it is time for each and every one of us to stop living dirty.

And why? The indiscriminate throwing of garbage contaminates our waters, with clogged drains open for insect breeding which brings about diseases like cholera and dengue, targeting most especially, our children. Floods have become a common sight during rainy seasons. Backyard burning, or simply, burning of garbage, releases toxic air pollutants, which leads to respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, even death. To be direct, dirty living equals death.

Trash Course

The National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has identified three key trends in the local garbage situation: 1) increase in sheer volume of generated wastes; 2) change in the quality and make-up of waste generated; and 3) waste handling methods.

Everyday, the country has a per capita waste generation of 0.3 to 0.7 kilograms of garbage. In 2003*, we have generated 27,397 tons of garbage daily, a step backwards compared to the 19,700 tons of garbage we have generated daily in 2000 (*based on the study conducted by the NSWMC-Secretariat and the Metro Manila Solid Waste Management Project of the Asian Development Bank in 2003). That is tantamount to ten million tons of garbage generated in 2003.

Of the ten million tons of generated garbage in 2003, 2.5 million came from Metro Manila. This is a strong evidence of the forecast which indicated that by 2010, in comparison to the 2000 data, waste generation shall have increased by 47%.

Ways to Beat Wastes

Lucky for us, the Philippine solid waste composition is generally highly-organic (biodegradable) and recyclable, with 50 percent of the wastes made up of yard, wood, and kitchen wastes. The high percentage of biodegradables is an indication of the great potential of composting as a means to recover this type of wastes, especially those coming from agricultural zones. Moreover, potentials for recycling are good considering that the remaining wastes are made up of recyclable materials.

The DENR has always been steadfast in its commitment to reduce, and eventually, eradicate the amount of garbage in the country. Projects and programs on solid waste management are consistently being implemented by the Department, through the NSWMC, in coordination with the local government units, non-government organizations, international groups, and other government agencies.

To date, the Commission has initiated the closure and rehabilitation of existing open dumpsites, the establishment of sanitary landfills in municipalities, the establishment of an ecological solid waste management system, the categorized compliance for disposal facilities, and the promotion and development of alternative technologies to process residual wastes.

The DENR, along with the Department of Interior and Local Government and some civil society groups, has also conducted the Nationwide Search for Model Barangays for Eco-Waste Management System, to assist our local communities to comply with, and reward them on their compliance, to Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Waste Recovery Programs are also being instituted by the government. The DENR has forged an agreement with the Recyclean Foundation, Inc (RFI) on a waste paper recovery program. The NSWMC, Tire Importers and Traders Association of the Philippines, Tire Manufacturers of the Philippines, and the Philippine Retreaders Association agreed to facilitate recovery of used tires for the effective management of the waste material – which would include their recycling, re-use, and environmentally sound disposal. In terms of plastics and plastic packaging, the Polystyrene Packaging Council of the Philippines coordinated with several malls and industrial parks, to recover polystyrene wastes which resulted to the recovery of about 8,000 cu. m. of said plastics in 2003. An Agreement was made between the council and the Department of Science and Technology to design melting kettles for potential recyclers to convert polystyrene into other form of materials.

To spread environmental awareness, particularly on solid waste management concerns, the DENR, together with the Eco-Waste Coalition signed an agreement for the establishment of the Ecological Solid Waste Pavilion. It is a national center for meetings, congregations, trainings, educational purposes particularly for showcasing effective, innovative and creative SWM procedures, techniques and activities.

The DENR is vigilant in its quest to manage solid wastes in the Philippines. The government is bent on empowering the municipalities to address their own garbage issues. We are all parts which make up a whole in each municipality. Together, let us put a stop to the thirty years of garbage problem we have stumbled upon. We have more than enough.