EcoWaste Coalition lauds Yolanda survivors, hits weak disaster response and preparedness

A year after the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda, zero waste advocacy network EcoWaste Coalition lauds survivors for mustering all remaining courage to make it through the tragedy, despite the apparent deficiency in disaster response and preparedness.

The coalition asserted that their unheeded calls for a vigorous ecological solid waste management and zero waste, somehow intensified the typhoon’s disastrous impacts to life, limb, and property, especially of the poor and other vulnerable sectors.

“We are one with the Yolanda-affected communities in acknowledging that the typhoon could not have become as disastrous as it was, had authorities took the path of genuine community empowerment through people-oriented disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), which incorporated waste issues as vital component,” said Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition’s National Coordinator.

According to the coalition, the issue on waste is so encompassing and already attaining such gravity that it in itself can be considered a hazard, which, if triggered can result in disastrous situations.

The coalition observed that waste issues have not been considered most, if not all, of the time in any of the phases of the DRRM strategy, namely (a) disaster prevention and mitigation; (b) preparedness; (c) response; and (d) rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The group stressed that mere sincere implementation of Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 and adopting zero waste principles, such as waste prevention, precautionary principle, and extended producer responsibility, would greatly enhance DRRM.

“Ecological solid waste management as mandated by law and the practice of zero waste would mean less pollutants and more and better material and financial resources, which leads to an improvement in the capacity of the people and the environment in the face of hazards, reducing the occurrence and impacts of disasters,” Lucero emphasized.

Lucero further stressed that “such zero waste core values as prudence and resourcefulness, once ingrained in the people’s minds, would hone their ability to utilize whatever resources are on hand, making them resilient during and after a disaster.”

According to the coalition, wastes that are not managed ecologically will impact on the people’s health and burden the environment, making them vulnerable to hazardous events, and increasing the risk of disaster.

“In a municipality in Bantayan Island in Cebu, for days after Yolanda struck, assorted wastes are hauled, dumped, and burned, releasing greenhouse gases and toxic fumes that exacerbate climate change and affect the people’s health and environmental integrity,” Lucero said.

The group observed that, to date, there remain 564 open dumpsites and 305 controlled dumpsites freely polluting the environment and putting at risk the surrounding communities. Littering and dumping remain widespread and so is unhampered open burning of wastes, all in violation of the law.

“These un-ecological practices decrease the capacities of the people and even the environment, increasing their vulnerabilities to hazardous events, defeating the spirit and goal of DRRM,” Lucero further said.

Technically, a disaster “occurs when a hazard impacts on vulnerable people.”

The group also noted that disaster response in the country are generally reactive and see the people as mere passive beneficiaries rather than as active participants in the DRRM practice.

“What the nation has been missing for years is a proactive and community-based DRRM. The practice of zero waste and ecological solid waste management itself is a proactive measure that embraces all four phases of the DRRM process,” stressed Lucero.

Zero Waste aims “to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”