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As the world celebrates Earth Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu is hopeful the disruptions and new normal created by the global health crisis would move people to change their behavior about climate change and environmental protection.

“The COVID-19 pandemic saw the Earth healing with cleaner air and water. Let us make these and our changed behavior the new normal when this crisis is over,” Cimatu said in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22.

For the first time since the annual global movement started in 1970, the Earth Day celebration goes digital with COVID-19 disrupting all semblance of normalcy and routine worldwide.

Earth Day Network Philippines, the local organizer of Earth Day celebrations, urged the public to join digital activities, such as live discussions and conferences, online concerts and social media activities using the hashtags #EarthDay2020 and #EarthDayEveryDay. This year’s theme is “Earth Day Every Day for Climate Action.”

Cimatu said the global health disaster offers a rare opportunity for people to assess what positive changes might be possible if they change their habits on a global scale.

Behavior change includes using water properly to conserve this precious commodity and minimize the energy required to extract it from source such as rivers and dams. Continuously practicing garbage segregation from source will minimize solid waste that fills disposal sites and results to greenhouse gas emissions such as methane that contributes to smog and causes health problems.

Urban gardening can help meet at least a portion of a family’s vegetable requirements while creating greener communities that decrease urban heat. The effective implementation of a modern public transport system using e-buses, e-jeeps and e-trikes will reduce vehicle emissions and demand for gasoline.

The DENR chief noted that air quality has improved in many countries including the Philippines. With the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, DENR air pollution monitoring stations in Metro Manila particularly in Las Pinas, Marikina, Muntinlupa, and Paranaque have registered a decrease in air pollution levels seen as a result of the reduction in the volume of vehicles in the streets for many hours every day due to heavy traffic.

“We hope these positive changes brought about by COVID-19 could carry over beyond the current pandemic,” Cimatu said. ###