The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has called on local government units (LGUs) anew to ramp up efforts in handling and disposal of medical waste to ensure health and environmental safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are again reminding LGUs of their duty to ensure compliance with Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which includes the safe and environmentally sound management of health care waste,” said DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and LGUs Concerns Benny D. Antiporda.

He added: “LGUs must take medical waste management seriously during this time of pandemic. We can’t afford to be lax on this issue. We cannot sacrifice the lives of our people just because of our negligence.”

Antiporda issued the reminder following reports that medical waste, such as face masks and gloves, were dumped along the bicycle lane on EDSA near White Planes Avenue in Quezon City last Monday.

The DENR official also reminded hospitals and other health care facilities of their obligation to segregate their trash using color-coded bags, disinfect medical waste, and make sure proper transfer procedures are observed.

He warned that criminal charges and penalties await individuals and establishments that may be found violating RA 9003.

Under the law, LGUs are primarily responsible for the effective and efficient solid waste management, particularly garbage segregation and disposal.

Antiporda nevertheless urged the public to do their share in the management of medical waste, saying “proper disposal of this kind of waste should start from households to prevent further spread of coronavirus.”

The DENR official also reiterated his call for LGUs to provide personal protective equipment (PPEs) to garbage collectors to prevent them from coming into contact with waste items potentially contaminated with coronavirus.

He said LGUs are under obligation to protect waste collectors, who provide vital service to keep communities clean and healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After the health workers, garbage collectors are the second most important human shield against coronavirus, that’s why it is important for us to make sure they are protected,” Antiporda said. #