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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has assured the public that it is doing its best to tackle air pollution and solid waste problems, consistent with President Rodrigo Duterte's "pro-environment and pro-people" agenda.

 

DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones said that while the department had already put in place clear policies to address those two major environmental issues, a more concrete and decisive measures can be expected under the leadership of Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

 

Soon after he was appointed by President Duterte to the DENR last May, Cimatu, a former Armed Forces chief, promised that full and strict implementation of laws on clean air, clean water and solid waste management will be on top of his priorities.

 

Prior to Cimatu's appointment, Leones noted that the DENR already finished installing several air quality monitoring stations, which are capable of measuring air pollutants, all over the country.

 

"The DENR's Environmental Management Bureau is now equipped with air monitoring equipment and a laboratory capable of detecting and analyzing toxic gas emissions, such as dioxins and furans," Leones said.

 

Dioxins and furans are environmental pollutants that have highly toxic potential.  Dioxins are largely by products of industrial processes and are tagged as unwanted by-products of manufacturing processes usually involving combustion. 

 

Solid and hospital wastes are often worst sources of dioxin released to the environment due to their incomplete burning.

 

At the same time, Leones said the DENR has been actively implementing its waste to energy (WTE) policy.

 

In fact, he said the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) issued last year the guidelines governing the establishment and operation of WTE technologies for municipal solid wastes, as contained in NSWMC Resolution No. 669.

 

The guidelines stipulate compliance with Presidential Decree No. 1586 or the Environmental Impact Statement System Law; Republic Act No. 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999; RA 9275 or the Clean Water Act; RA 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act; and RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

 

"Given the provisions of these laws, we can expect that all bases are covered in terms of solid waste management," Leones said.

 

To enable the country comply with global emissions standards, Leones said the DENR undertakes a technical cooperation project with the Japanese government on the use of advanced WTE technologies, through thermal processes that eliminate incinerators. The cities of Quezon, Cebu and Davao have been chosen as pilot sites for the project.

 

According to Leones, the DENR has also taken strides in going after local government units (LGUs), which are remiss in their duty to enforce RA 9003.

 

"We have already filed with the Office of the Ombudsman cases against 50 LGUs and evaluated 100 others for their failure to implement RA 9003," he said.

 

RA 9003 specifically mandates all, especially the local government units (LGUs), to adopt a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management program that would ensure the protection of public health and environment.

It directs LGUs to utilize environmentally sound methods; set targets and guidelines for solid waste avoidance and reduction; and ensure proper segregation, collection, transport and storage of solid waste; among others. 

Leones also mentioned the firm stand taken by the DENR on the return of Canada's waste shipments, which were rotting in Manila's ports.

This led the Manila regional trial court to order the return what remains of the 50 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada at the cost of the importer. Canada eventually agreed to accept the waste. 

As an offshoot of the Canadian waste issue, the DENR, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of Customs have agreed to intensify collaboration and improve regulations against imported waste to prevent a repeat of the incident. ###

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