By Harold Clavite
In 2018, we started banning single-use plastic in the Philippine Information Agency. This is our institutional response to critical conditions of our environment where the main culprit is man’s irresponsibility and inability to care for the environment due to limited information.
On a planned New Year’s Eve event in Manila to obtain a Guinness world record on the largest balloon drop, which private entities Cove Manila and Okada Manila eventually cancelled due to public outcry, around 130,000 latex balloons were prepared to be released. Balloon drop is a practice of many businesses, not only in the Philippines but in many parts of the United States and several other countries, as part of company milestones and/or public celebrations. While organizers claim that the event was designed not to hurt the environment, this is a manifestation and indication of the inability to see what is beneficial and what is not for the environment. There are several balloons falsely advertised as “biodegradable latex” and regardless of all claims, they end up polluting places where they end up and are usually mistaken by animals as food causing their death. See how BalloonsBlow.org clearly points this out: https://balloonsblow.org/latex-balloons-still-kill/.
Such acts can be seen as irresponsible and may send the message that entertainment and sales take precedence over the welfare of the environment. Unfortunately, a single uninformed decision on these matters may compromise attempts to protect the environment by governments and non-profit organizations.
Our commitment this year is to not only talk about environmental advocacies within our organization but to continue to support, in terms of publicity and promotion, the National Environmental Health Action Plan (NEHAP) 2017-2022. Our goal is to increase the number of people and communities who understand this plan and we continue to work closely with the Environmental Management Bureau and relevant government and private entities to push for these advocacies. Secondly, our support to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (#SDGs) shall continue and, in particular, to use public information and communication strategies to promote urgent action against climate change and its impact. Our work plans this year would see an increased public engagement through forums, consultations, and multi-sector interactions and include environment as an important point of discussion, in addition to several other relevant issues.
At the same time, we call on every citizen to take important steps to be part of this advocacy. It is a must for everyone to fully understand the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law in the Philippines and for people to fully embrace it. Just recently, a senate bill has been filed— the Single-Use Plastics Regulation and Management Act of 2018, which aims to regulate the manufacturing, importation, and use of single-use plastic products. While we await creation and enforcement of new laws, we must do our share to avoid or eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste. Gone are the days where man is unable to understand the connection between waste management and a sustainable world. The ability to decipher what is wrong or right for the environment is a decision one has to urgently make. Most, if not all, would choose to live in a better world— let us choose to extend it a bit longer so that it would not only benefit ours and our children’s family lines but several more future generations.
Whether they are government or private sector-led, companies, organizations, and communities must consider the environment in its decisions and in the conduct of celebrations, occasions, and even down to its day-to-day activities including printing of documents and ordering food.
Since 2019 is an election year, Filipinos must be able to identify with and support leaders who can present a doable plan of action to protect the environment. As a Filipino citizen and a government official, I demand for political agenda that is focused on environmental protection and immediate action on climate change, among other equally important societal concerns and issues.
It is never too late. We cannot keep repeating the same mistakes and we must decide to make it right this time. Let us continue to be the responsible citizens that we are now and become watchdogs ourselves to ensure we contribute to making this world truly better and sustainable for our children and our children’s children and for many more generations to come.
It is not going to be very easy but we must endure all difficulty and begin this new year with fortitude by showing altruistic motivation to help protect our environment.
The author is director general of the Philippine Information Agency.