AN official of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) believes that Filipinos lack discipline when it comes to waste management.

During a recorded video interview with The Manila Times, DoST Undersecretary for Research and Development Leah Buendia said Filipinos have a responsibility in alleviating the problem of waste disposal.

“Initially, my observation is that if we’re in another country, we can easily comply with the rules and regulations when it comes to waste management. But if you are here in our country, it looks like we lack the discipline to have waste management,” she said.

Buendia also pointed out that the country’s growing population generates more waste.

She also said waste management policies should be stricter for “discipline to be inculcated in each of the members of a community.”

The DoST official also said the adoption of technologies would be vital in providing solutions to waste management.

She also explained that there are two kinds of wastes, solid waste and “waste water” or marine waste.

“In the Philippines, we produce solid wastes, particularly plastic waste, in the amount of 16 million metric tons, and this is a huge amount,” Buendia explained. “And it has been projected that this would increase to about 165 percent by 2025, and the biggest volume comes from Metro Manila.”

Citing figures from the National Solid Waste Management Commission, Buendia said that Metro Manila generated 9,500 tons of waste per day in 2020, and it is projected to be 10,400 tons per day in 2025.

She also cited that for marine waste, seven of the 10 largest plastic emitting rivers in Asia are in the country, among them the Pasig River, the Tullahan River and the Rio Grande de Mindanao River.

“This brings the country’s total marine plastic input to at least 36 percent of the total ocean plastics emitted from Asia,” she said.

The DoST’s solutions in eradicating plastic waste include the Post-Radiation Reactive Extrusion (PRREX), where plastic wastes could be upcycled to produce high-value materials, and the Integrated Waste Water Survey and Technological Options (Iwasto), which assesses the solid waste management activities in the Manila Bay watershed and develops an integrated solid waste information and technology management system.

“We can actually control the pollution, but I don’t think there will be a reversal of how it is right now,” Buendia admitted. “If there is a very strong whole-of-government and even whole-of-society intervention, I think we can make it not to the pristine state of what it has been before, but this could be converted to a more manageable and more livable environment than we have.”

As for the microplastic problem in Laguna de Bay, which two Mindanao State University scientists cited in their study, she urged the public not to use plastics or use biodegradable plastics.

“Plastics in the environment are coming from the degradation of the plastics,” Buendia said.

She, however, cited that a high school student invented a measuring device for microplastics in the water system.

“There is another measurement that has been done in the air and that is anything aside from oxygen that goes inside our lungs,” Buendia said.

“What more plastic, because it cannot be degraded by our bodies, so that is why a lot of illnesses are coming from these kinds of non-biodegradable microplastics that we ingest into our bodies.”

“I think filtering could be very helpful,” she added. “When we use masks, it is also a preventive measure … but first and foremost, never use plastics.”

An earlier Manila Times interview with Mindanao State University scientists Prof. Cris Gel Loui Arcadio and Dr. Hernando Bacosa showed that 100 out of 123 items in Laguna de Bay were extracted as microplastics.

Pimentel bats for banning imported solid waste

In a related development, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd has filed Senate Bill (SB) 2206, an “Act Banning the Importation of Solid Waste.”

Pimentel said in the 17th Congress, he authored Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) 553 on Dec. 4, 2017 regarding the so-called Canadian trash and PSR 939 on Nov. 13, 2018 regarding the so-called Korean trash.

These two incidents of trash dumping indicate that the Philippines is well on the path of the so-called global waste trade.

The minority leader stressed that while the Canadian trash and the Korean trash have been shipped back to Canada and South Korea, respectively, these incidents of trash dumping can be repeated at any time.

Therefore, a law to prohibit the importation of solid waste is urgently needed to prevent the entry of these wastes into our country.

Pimentel explained that he filed SB 2206 pursuant to the Constitutional duty and intergenerational responsibility to protect and advance the right of our people to a balanced and healthy ecology.

He said by banning the importation of solid waste, we prevent the country from being a dumping site of the same from other countries.

If enacted, it shall be unlawful to import any solid waste as defined in Republic Act (RA) 9003 known as the “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000” and its implementing rules and regulations into or within Philippine territory, including the Special Economic Zones as defined in RA 7916 known as the “Special Economic Zone Act of 1995,” as amended, and use, treat or process the same.

Any entity or person who shall import any solid waste or otherwise use, treat, or process the same in violation of this Act shall be punished with imprisonment of 12 years and one day to 20 years, at the discretion of the court.

If the offender is a foreigner, the offender shall be deported and barred from any subsequent entry into the Philippines after service of his/her sentence.

In the case of corporations, associations or other entities, the penalty shall be imposed upon the managing partner, president or chief executive officer, in addition to the payment of exemplary damages of at least P500,000.

If it is a foreign entity, the director and all its responsible officers shall be barred from subsequent entry into the Philippines, in addition to the cancellation of its license to do business in the Philippines.

If the offender is a government official or employee, the penalties of automatic dismissal from office and permanent disqualification from holding any elective or appointive position in the government shall be imposed, in addition to the penalties.