The Provincial Environmental Management Office (PEMO) on Thursday urged newly-elected barangay officials to include in their agenda the enforcement of open burning ban in their area of coverage.
Leonora Mansueto, the senior environmental management specialist of PEMO, an attached agency of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), said barangays as frontliners can greatly help in enforcing this ban, as stated in the Republic Act 9003 or the Philippines’ Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“The responsibility of enforcing this law (RA 9003) has been devolved to the local government unit, particularly the barangay,” she emphasized during the Philippine Information Agency’s Kapihan.
“We encourage them to promote, encourage and implement in their respective jurisdiction a comprehensive ecological solid waste management, and that includes waste segregation, recycling composting and ban of open burning,” she added.
The said PIA-organized press conference was held in line with the Philippines’ celebration of environment month, with the theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution: If You Can’t Refuse It, Reuse It!”
Open burning, a practice banned and punishable under the Philippines’ Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, is a process of burning waste using an open flame exposed to the environment.
“Burning of any material is prohibited under our law, so we encourage the households to compost as it is an environmental-friendly alternative,” she said.
Mansueto, meanwhile, said their office only have a limited number of environmental monitoring officers, making the enforcement of the open burning ban province-wide difficult.
Without the cooperation of barangay officials, she said it would be an uphill task.
“Supposed to be, it’s the barangay’s role because we’re not always there to monitor. But when we chance upon a violator, we reprimand him outright,” she added.
Meanwhile, she said more than half of barangays in the City received notice of violations in the past for having residents who were repeating violators of the open burning ban.
“More than half and that’s the reality,” she emphasized, adding that they did not, however, fall short in conducting information drives in all barangays.
Despite this, none got penalized so far, except the individuals who had been issued citation tickets with a corresponding fine of P300 to P1,000, as stated in the law.
“Regarding the penalty, we just furnished a copy of the notice of violation issued to Barangay Chairman to the Office of the Mayor where we call them for the technical conference,” she explained.
And if there is no action, we will endorse the matter to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, and the Commission will then endorse it to the Ombudsman for administrative sanction of the LGU concerned as stated in Section 50 of RA 9003,” she added.
For most people, open burning could be the cheapest and easiest way to reduce the volume of waste and disposal of combustible materials.
But studies show open burning is also a very unhealthy one as it releases pollutants directly into the air.
The smoke from burning plastic wastes, for instance, contains harmful chemicals dioxins and furans, collectively known as unintentional persistent organic pollutants (UPOPs).
These UPOPs can cause ill effects in humans, such as certain types of cancers, skin disorders, and impairment of the immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems, among others.
Nicaith Trisha Enrile, PEMO’s environmental monitoring officer, emphasized that the smoke produces by open burning is also made up of fine particles that when inhaled can cause respiratory problems.
“When inhaled, fine particles can accumulate in the respiratory system, causing various respiratory problems, including persistent coughs, wheezing and physical discomfort,” she said.
“Additionally, breathing these fine particles can increase the proneness of respiratory infections and can aggravate existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic bronchitis. Even short-term exposure to smoke can cause respiratory problems,” she added.
Open burning, on one hand, also emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. An excess in the concentration of these heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere causes global warming.
The PEMO said individuals can report open burning ban violators via (048) 434 1824 or at their respective barangay government offices.
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