Massive Metro Floods: A Wake Up Call to Urban Litterbugs and Inept Officials

Quezon City. The massive flooding in Metro Manila and nearby places following the landfall of tropical storm “Ondoy” near the boundary of Aurora and Quezon provinces this morning should serve as a “wake up call” to citizens and the authorities to stop the indiscriminate dumping of trash.

The waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition held stubborn litterbugs as well as inept public officials responsible for the widespread inundation of communities as the storm escalates and brings heavy rains.

“We blame uncaring litterbugs for clogging the waterways as well as some public officials for sleeping on the job, particularly for failing to enforce local and national laws against the illegal dumping of garbage. The massive flooding should rouse the authorities from their slumber and implement the ecological management of discards without delay,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Based on text reports we received from our members, the massive flooding affected not only the usual low-lying areas but also places that have not been flooded for years, turning streets into instant swimming pools,” Calonzo added.

Environmentalist Rene Pineda reported that he commuted from Katipunan Avenue and got stranded in heavily flooded Marcos Highway. He waded through waist-deep, one kilometer stretch until he could get a ride to Antipolo City where he resides.

In Tatalon, Quezon City, along Araneta Avenue, community worker Osang Palma reported “lagpas na sa bahay ang baha dito,” forcing residents to flee their homes and evacuate to a nearby covered court and to Diosdado Elementary School.

Environmentalist Gigie Cruz reported seeing people on top of their rooftops as flood inundates Barangay Addition Hills in San Juan City.

Youth leader Tope Peralta reported knee-deep flooding in Barangay Maybunga, Pasig City, while film actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez likewise reported knee-deep flooding in Barangay Loyola Heights in Quezon City.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the callous practice of some citizens to dump their discards wherever they please, from cigarette butts and other tiny litter to bagful of mixed refuse, is a major cause of rapid flooding after heavy rains.

Discards thrown in streets, canals, creeks and rivers ultimately end up clogging the watercourse, disrupting the flow of rainwater, and turning low-lying areas into filthy pools that can harm and even kill humans and animals, damage properties, spread water-borne diseases and lead to economic losses.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the routine clearing and dredging operations are essential steps to mitigate flooding during the rainy season, but will be pointless if littering and dumping remain uncontrolled.

“The ecological management of discards is a critical component in any complete flood prevention and management program,” the EcoWaste Coalition said, stressing that individual, family and community participation is the key for its success.

“We call on all barangay councils to exercise effective leadership in educating and mobilizing our people towards the environmentally-sound management of their discards for tidier, healthier and more vibrant communities,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

Considering the special needs of informal settlers, especially those living along creeks and rivers, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the authorities to ensure that constant efforts are made to inform and assist them in managing their refuse for public health and safety.

“The informal settlements are here to stay unless and until we have fully addressed the needs of our people for humane and sustainable employment, livelihood and housing. In the meantime, we urge the government to invest more in uplifting their living environments, including implementing a program on ecological waste management program that will cater to their specific conditions,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.