IT IS disheartening to know that despite an 18-year-old garbage law, our attitude towards solid waste hasn’t changed much. At the Luneta Park, around 56 tons of garbage was left by park-goers who celebrated their Christmas there. Most of the trash were bottles, polystyrene foam cups, plates and picnic mats.

“The mountain of garbage collected at Rizal Park after Christmas reflects not only the lack of discipline among Filipinos, but also our attitude of indifference to solid waste management issues and the environment in general,” DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny Antiporda said in a statement.

On New Year’s Eve, some of the streets I saw in my beloved Mabalacat City, including Mac Arthur Highway, are littered with trash from spent firecrackers, fountains, and sparklers. The revelers did not even bother to clean up their mess. In the past, there were even burning tires on these streets.

Even with the passage of RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law in 2000, it will take a long time before the attitude towards garbage will change. Our hope is in the younger generation that is why the law mandates the inclusion of waste management in the academic curriculum.

Meanwhile, what the government can do is to enforce the law. If authorities will be serious in apprehending and penalizing violators, people will follow the law. Just look at Clark and Subic where traffic rules are strictly implemented. Motorists in these Freeport zones follow traffic signs and the first stop-first go rule in four-way intersections. Riders wear helmets and keep their headlights on.

In Baguio City, Mayor Benjamin Magalong ordered the city police to arrest those undisciplined people who just indiscriminately throw their garbage anywhere. The Baguio City Police Office launched an aggressive anti-littering campaign to apprehend those who were caught for not properly disposing of their trash.

A news report said that immediately after the campaign has been launched, the Baguio Police have arrested fourteen individuals who violated anti-littering ordinances, eight of them were local residents while six were tourists.

In Manila, Mayor Isko warned litterers that he wouldn’t think twice of detaining them even on the first day of 2020 if only to teach them a lesson. Leaving garbage in public places violates Manila City Ordinance No. 7866, or the Anti-Littering Ordinance of 2018, which imposes a fine of P3,000 or 30 days of imprisonment on violators.

We Filipinos are admired by foreigners for being clean. We take a bath every day, and we keep our homes orderly and spotless. Thus, it is baffling why there is so much garbage being carelessly dumped in public places. We treat our surroundings as if it were a big wastebasket.

New year na, 2020 na. Magbago na tayo!