Green path to recovery

NOTWITHSTANDING the plan laid out by the President in his State of the Nation Address yesterday, environmental advocates hope the government would put the well-being of Mother Earth and the 109 million Filipinos at the center of its COVID-19 recovery strategy and plan.

Have we not seen enough destruction of the environment and why is it bad for public health?

This pandemic should have made us all realize that public health is closely related to environmental health and sustainability.

We have to rebuild society from the health, economic and humanitarian crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. With a green and just recovery strategy and plan, the government can resuscitate our battered economy in ways that will uplift people’s lives, particularly those living on the margins of society like the informal waste communities, while ensuring the protection of ecosystems from dirty energy sources, polluting processes and wasteful products, and toxic disposal technologies.

It would have been refreshing to hear the President declaring war against the deliberate mismanagement of waste by some local government units through their willful neglect of abiding by the very simple and pro-environment provisions of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

For a green and just recovery from the deleterious impacts of COVID-19, environmental groups expressed the need to prioritize the adoption and eventual implementation of key pollution prevention laws and environmental justice policies, including:

* the rejection of bills rescinding the ban on waste incineration under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and those espousing waste-to-energy incineration

* the enactment of a comprehensive ban on single-use plastics and the promotion of alternative product packaging and delivery systems

* the adoption of extended producer responsibility that will make manufacturers, importers and distributors responsible for the retrieval, recycling, treatment or disposal of post-consumer products

* the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment prohibiting the transfer of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries, and the imposition of a national ban on waste imports, including electronic waste, plastic waste and other wastes

* the propagation of urban container gardening/farming and household composting as practical solutions to waste, hunger and health woes

* the provision of secure, safe and sustainable jobs and livelihoods for the informal waste sector.

And yes, why not pass a “Rights of Nature” law that will provide the highest level of legal protection to the natural ecosystems and processes amid the climate, biodiversity, plastic, and COVID-19 crisis?

It is hoped that the government will put in motion a roadmap to a green and just recovery where the interests of Mother Earth and her children rank first over and above business-as-usual schemes. That’s because public health is interrelated to ecological health and sustainability.