MANILA, NOVEMBER 26, 2003 (STAR) A coalition of various groups from the civil society, business and academe warned recently that another "ecological bomb," worse than the Payatas tragedy, will rock Metro Manila if the citizenry continues to violate the law, does not cooperate with government and ignores the danger posed by improper solid waste disposal.

The Environment Studies Institute (ESI) of Miriam College, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (COCAP), Ayala Foundation, Polystyrene Packaging Council of the Philippines, Mother Earth, and Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines (ZWRMP) formed the SWARM Plan or the Solid Waste Reduction Master Plan for Metro Manila as a response to the potential danger. This is supported by Social Development Fund of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"Under the law, some of the nine active Metro Manila dumpsites, will have to be shut down by yearend as they are already on the brink of becoming a catastrophic waste mass failure, with potentially life-threatening consequences and severe public health risk in pandemic proportions," warned Rene D. Pineda Jr., president of COCAP. Metro Manila governments have to content with nearly 6,000 tons of waste a day.

RA 9003 signed by President Macapagal-Arroyo last January 2001, provides that citizens must segregate waste into recyclable, compostable and disposable before these can be hauled by the government into a truck. Each barangay is mandated to set up a materials recovery facility (MFR), which should receive recyclable and compostable waste. The city or municipal government, in turn, should only haul residual waste, which should not include toxic, hazardous and hospital waste, for final disposal to dumpsites.

The law also prohibits the use of open and uncontrolled dumpsites beginning next year, after which only controlled dumpsites will be allowed until end 2006. By year 2007, sanitary landfills must take the place of controlled dumpsites.

ESI executive director Dr. Angelina P. Galang lamented that in two years of the law it has yielded bad results as most Metro Manilans do not segregate their waste. "This is why our group bonded to implement the SWARMPlan to help educate our countrymen how to manage waste" Galang stated, stressing that Metro Manila economy can earn back as much as P4.8 million daily or almost P1.8 billion annually from segregating waste alone. She added that local governments, particularly Quezon City, have been refunding compliant barangays with savings generated by the actual reduction of appropriate hauling expenditures due to waste management.

The SWARMPlan task force has been conducting information and education campaigns to as many members of the following sectors, namely: schools, subdivisions, barangays, wet markets, commercial centers and industries.

To prove that proper management of waste will not only clean the environment but also earn decent income for everyone, Luz Sabas, ZWRMP founder illustrated the success stories of some sectors, among them are: Barangay Forbes Park in Makati City; Ayala Commercial Center in Makati; and North Fairview Elementary School in Quezon City.

Sabas pointed out the benefits from the direct sale of recyclable waste, as well as their conversion into different products like bags, ornaments, decorated and practical containers, etc., which has become a steady livelihood of many barangays in the metropolis.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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