As COP 27 approaches, the urgency is mounting for the world to address the current climate crisis. Although activities in the Global North for the most part herald the climate crisis, some nations in the Global South are also contributing to a host of environmental problems such as air and plastic pollution. Here are the top 4 environmental problems in the Philippines and the government’s approach to reducing them.
4 biggest environmental problems in the Philippines in 2022
1. Air pollution
Over the year, air pollution has become particularly problematic in the Philippines. By the way World Health Organization health and environment dashboard, the country records an annual average of 24 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³) for fine particles, greatly exceeding the maximum recommended level of 5µg/m³. Most of the air pollution in the Philippines comes from Burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. Given that 53% of the population lacks access to clean fuels and cooking technology, this can only worsen air quality in the long run.
Air pollution in the Philippines is also caused by vehicle emissions, especially in areas like Metro Manila. In 2022, other recorded increases in air pollution outside Metro Manila include San Fernando City Station in Pampanga, Antipolo City Station, Biñan City Station, Puerto Princesa City Station and Davao City Station.
According to William Cunado, Director of the Office of Environmental Management at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), including lifting restrictions related to Covid-19 deterioration of air quality in Metro Manila. This was mainly due to a sharp increase in the number of vehicles on the street, which had fallen to 10% in the country’s national capital region during the confinement period.
Another factor was the prevalence use of firecrackers during the end of year celebrations. Since the particulate matter (PMten) in the firecrackers contains a mixture of carbon, sulfur and other fine particles that pose a danger to public health, the DENR has affirmed its commitment to controlling air pollution spikes of this nature. However, for this approach to be successful, local government units would need to enforce the Executive Order 28 on the controlled use of firecrackers.
On another note, although the government has introduced the Clean Air Act from 1999, groups like Greenpeace Philippines and the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) point to its obsolete character in the international community. For this reason there has been urgent calls for the government to update its standards to respond to the reality of air pollution in the country.
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2. Plastic pollution
Among the environmental problems in the Philippines is also plastic pollution, a particularly serious problem for the country. As evidenced by the World Bank’s use of the word “staggering” to describe the situation in the Philippines, an inadequate waste management system, coupled with a heavy reliance on single-use plastics, has set the stage for the annual generation of 2.7 million tons of plastic waste.
Like any rapidly developing country, the Philippines faces unsustainable plastic consumption due to an inefficient recycling system. Estimates show that the country loses approximately $890 million non-recycled plastic products. However, despite the massive scale of plastic pollution in the Philippines, residents of the country and certain companies have been at the forefront of recycling efforts thus far. For example, companies like Infinity Eight Trading and Marketing Corporation buy plastic waste from scrap dealers, transform it into pellets and resell it as raw material to remake boxes and food bottles.
While critics blame the problem of plastic pollution in the Philippines on poor law enforcement, the government has nevertheless presented its Extended Producer Responsibility Act (EPRA) in 2022. With this new law in effect, companies are mandated to create EPR programs for the reduction, recovery and diversion of plastic waste. As a result, by 2028 companies are expected to have achieved an offset or recovery of 80% of their plastic product footprint.
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3. Marine pollution
As the third contributor marine plastics, marine pollution represents one of the most pressing environmental problems in the Philippines. Considering that the country generates more than 2 million tons of plastic waste every year, the World Bank reports about 20% of this waste ends up in the sea. Describing the state of marine pollution in the Philippines, Theresa Lazaro, the country’s undersecretary for foreign affairs, cited reports that “there are more plastics than of fish by 2050, while the oceans would be overheated and acidified if people did not act now.” For this reason, marine pollution also endangers biodiversity in the Philippines.
In recent years, the government has taken various measures to combat marine pollution in the country. One of them is signed by the Ports Authority of the Philippines OK with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines to combat marine pollution around ports. Thanks to this agreement, the objective is to achieve a 50% reduction in plastic waste leakage in the port of Cagayan de Oro, the Port of Batangas, and youe north port of Manila.
Another response to marine pollution in the Philippines is the government’s implementation of a National Marine Litter Action Plan. Envisioned to achieve zero waste in Philippine waters by 2040, the plan aims to implement a wide range of policies, from public-private partnerships to improving public awareness of marine pollution. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the rationale for the approach is linked to the recognition that most marine plastics that pollute the sea are attributable to land-based sources, such as an inappropriate waste disposal system. For this reason, an integrated effort that also curbs land-based plastic pollution while educating the public about waste management practices is considered more effective.
Although the government sees the aforementioned EPR law as a step in the right direction, there are many other factors to consider. For example, similar to previous efforts to reduce plastic and air pollution in the Philippines, a high level of commitment will be a crucial determinant of its effectiveness.
4. Sea level rise
Floods were recurrent in the Philippines in 2022. This comes in the back of the country at the top of this year Global Risk Index, which assesses sea level rise (cause of coastal flooding) as one of its indicators. Related to the issue, The Earth.Org projection shows that residents of the country’s capital, Manila, will be displaced by 2100 if current trends continue. At the moment, Manila is already sinking to 20 millimeters per yearexceeding mean sea level rise almost tenfold.
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So far, mitigation efforts have not been very successful. Nevertheless, in 2022, the DENR announcement a plan for the installation of infrastructure such as valves, pumping stations, culverts and additional drainage connection systems. This was in addition to the unblocking operations carried out on the drainage canals in Manila. Accordingly, the DENR also plans to focus particularly on low-lying areas of the city to reduce coastal flooding.
Flood mitigation may be crucial to the Philippines’ strategy on sea level rise, however, there are worries that the government’s approach ignores its long-term threat. For the most part, this is due to solutions such as the decision to only partially wall off the coast. Although several gaps in the seawall were needed to allow fishing boats access to the bay, however, Vonne Villanueva, disaster risk reduction and management officer in the town of Navota, said the shoreline might need to be closed off to really protect the city from the rise. sea levels.
Image courtesy of Henry Donati/Department for International Development (Flickr)
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