Ph Environ: What’s Out There? What Do We Need?

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Protecting the environment is protecting the Philippines, our home. One should always protect and improve our home.

By Jonas Marie A. Dumdum

Editor’s note: Jonas Marie Dumdum is an environmental sustainability practitioner and a Climate Reality Leader. He is also a convenor for the Metro Manila Climate Club and the Angat Buhay Para sa Klima group.

 

During the early months of the lockdown in the Philippines due to Covid-19, everyone in Metro Manila saw something different. They saw the mountains near Antipolo from their point of view, clear from any cloud or smog. For the first time in so many years, Metro Manila saw what it means to have a clean and green environment.

The Philippines, according to the international agency Germanwatch, is one of the countries that is consistently part of the Top 5 that are at risk for any climate-related risks, based on their latest annual Global Risk Index assessments over the past three years. The Department of Finance described climate-related losses over the past decade at US$10 billion, or P506.1 billion, equivalent to around 20 times the allocated budget for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA). This is despite the idea that the nation produces about 0.2 percent of global emissions.

National and local governments, past and present, have given a lower priority to the environment and climate change. Priorities on the environment have consistently given way to ideas that are called out by environmental activists as improper and unsustainable practices of exploiting our natural resources, with varying degrees of local community development.

 

Economic Perspective

To put it into an economic perspective, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (PNE) shared in October 2021 that an estimated P990.3 billion was lost during the Duterte administration in terms of natural resources that would have been fully beneficial to Filipinos.

Going beyond that, the state of the Philippine environment could be seen through three forms – air pollution, marine plastic pollution, and forest cover.

A study conducted by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) in November 2021 revealed that approximately 66,000 premature deaths every year in the country (such as lung disease, heart ailments, or cancer) is linked to nitrous oxide (NO2) and particle emissions 2.5 micrometers and below (PM2.5). This costs the nation economically by about P4.5 trillion annually. In addition, they noted that the national air quality standard for PM2.5 is five times higher than the updated World Health Organization standards for air quality, meaning that our current air quality standards are not at par with international norms, and may cause more deaths if this issue is not addressed.

 

Plastic Waste In Ph Waters

Scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, and New Zealand published a scientific journal article in 2021 showing that the Philippines is ranked first in the world in emitting marine plastic pollution in the world at around 360,000 metric tons a year.

Most of it come from the rivers and tributaries linking the Pasig River. Around 0.75 million metric tons of plastic wastes in general were measured nationally in 2021, based on a plastic wastes study by the World Bank.

Around 164 million single use plastic wastes, mostly sachets, are thrown by Filipinos every year according to a 2019 study by GAIA Asia Pacific. This is even though the law on solid wastes, The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act 2003, will turn 20 years next year. The danger of not addressing this issue is that it endangers marine life due to accidental ingestion of plastic, and that it increases the rate of ocean acidification on our waters that would lead to coral and shellfish deaths.

 

Loss Of Tree Covers

Data from the organization Global Forest Watch (GFW) indicated that over the period of 2001-2021, the Philippines lost 1.34 million hectares of tree cover, or a decrease of 7.2 percent of total tree cover within the same period. That also translates to a loss of carbon absorption of around 788 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). The losses are more pronounced in Palawan, Agusan del Sur, and Zamboanga del Norte at 170,000, 121,000, and 61,300 hectares of tree cover loss respectively. The loss of tree cover leads to a loss of natural wildlife that could help solve a range of issues from climate change to health issues, and a potential loss in the fight against climate change.

 

We Are Responsible

These issues, though longstanding, remind us that we, Filipinos, are ultimately responsible for the state of our national environment. Because of that, we too hold the answers on what should be done to prevent further loss of ecological quality.

It starts with looking at what we can do to reduce our ecological and carbon footprint as much as possible, from the time we wake up to the time we sleep.

Then, we find like-minded neighbors and start to design ideas for an eco-friendly local community.

Finally, we collaborate with our local government and national government for ways to strengthen our environmental policy, both current and upcoming.  Despite the lack of government priority in terms of the environment, the laws that we have about this matter are good in form and either needs updating to the latest standard, or by properly enforcing what is in the law.

Protecting the environment is protecting the Philippines, our home. One should always protect and improve our home.

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