Cimatu: Time to take zero waste seriously

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu is urging all sectors of society to take zero waste seriously amid the worsening garbage problem in the country.

“The issue of solid waste management has hounded us for many decades now. It is time that we address this once and for all, and ensure that we walk the talk,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu issued the statement as the nation celebrates January as the National Zero Waste Month and the 17th anniversary of the implementation of Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

The celebration culminates with the holding of 4th Integrated Waste Management Expo on January 25-27 at the ABS-CBN Vertis Tent in Quezon City.

Cimatu, who promised to make the full implementation of R.A. 9003 as one of his top priorities soon after he assumed the DENR post in May last year, said that poor waste management is not only a source of pollution but it also negatively impacts the environment and public health.

“When we live in unsanitary conditions, we breathe polluted air and dirty water comes out of our faucets. These violate our basic right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu was on his third month in office when the DENR ordered the permanent closure of the Payatas sanitary landfill in Quezon City due to serious environmental violations and susceptibility to trash slide.

In June last year, Cimatu put to task the municipal government of Malay in Aklan for the garbage problem on Boracay Island which at the time was a major public and environmental concern in one of the country’s top tourist destinations.

The waste management expo, organized by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, aims to raise awareness of the public and beef up efforts in solving the rising problem of solid waste in Metro Manila and other urban areas across the country.

The expo is open to the public, including government agencies and non-governmental organizations. It offers various activities like forums, talks and workshops that bear interesting topics on environmental protection, renewable energy, sustainable livelihood and updates on consumer goods that help save the planet.

More than 60 exhibitors are expected to join the event to showcase their products, services and best available technology on solid waste management and environmental practices. ### 

DENR monitors environmental impacts of Mayon Volcano eruption

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is closely monitoring the activity of Mayon Volcano and will advise the public on its potential effects on the environment and public health.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu gave this assurance following his visit to Albay province on Monday to check on the air quality conditions of affected areas in the towns of Camalig and Guinobatan and cities of Tabaco and Ligao, as well as the vicinities of the 6-kilometer danger zone and the extended 7-km danger zone.

“The DENR, in close coordination with the Department of Health, will continue to monitor the air and water quality on affected areas and river systems to minimize environmental and health impacts of the volcanic eruption,” Cimatu said.

He said the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Region 5 will also coordinate with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the Office of the Civil Defense, and the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office regarding the announcement of advisories and evacuation plan.

“We need to observe harmonized protocols among concerned agencies to ensure zero casualty,” said Cimatu, a former Armed Forces chief and special envoy for overseas Filipino workers in distress.

Director Eva Ocfemia of the EMB-Region 5 reported that of the affected areas, only Guinobatan showed increasing results of total suspended particulates (TSP) concentration.

Ocfemia, however, said the sulfur dioxide concentrations in Camalig and Guinobatan still conformed to the national ambient air quality guideline value of 0.034 parts per million.

Cimatu, meanwhile, warned that volcanic gases, particularly sulfur dioxide, have significant environmental impacts and hazardous effects on human health.

He said that when sulfur dioxide combines with water and air, it forms sulfuric acid, which is the main component of acid rain.

“We all know that acid rain can cause deforestation, acidify waterways to the detriment of aquatic life, and corrode building materials and paints,” Cimatu pointed out.

In terms of health, Cimatu said sulfur dioxide could affect the respiratory system, particularly lung function, and can irritate the eyes.

Sulfur dioxide irritates the respiratory tract and increases the risk of pulmonary tract infections. It causes coughing, mucus secretion and aggravates conditions such as asthma and chronic bronchitis. ### 

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