TALKING of self-respect, what actually comes first to my mind is our bad habit of littering and improper disposing of trash. Unlike our one-time lack of self-respect in not rejecting ICC’s attempt to intrude into our sovereignty, it is a regular occurrence for us to go out of our houses and have our senses blasted by the ugly sight of litter and trash on streets and sidewalks and in unused residential or commercial lots.
The recently publicized Cebu City trash problem is making me revisit an issue I have picked on so many abjectly frustrating times before. Also, not too long ago local media carried a downright embarrassing global report that the Philippines is the source of one third of total waste dumped into the world’s oceans. According to the same report, the Philippines has seven of the world’s top 10 rivers most responsible for ocean pollution.
The concerned among us regularly get together to rid our shorelines of tons of trash. But this just never stops flowing into our seas and the world’s oceans because people keep tossing their waste into creeks and rivers unmindful of its destructive impact on the environment. We also repair drainage systems in the dry season, yet when the rains come they don’t drain efficiently because irresponsible citizens never stop tossing trash into them.
The worst part is that our local officials simply accept as normal people’s improper and irresponsible disposal of waste. How can they not insist on sanitary waste disposal? Where is their self-respect that they are not embarrassed at being officials of litter-strewn cities or towns that stink of uncollected garbage?
Like many of our local and national officials, I’ve been to many countries in Europe and Asia. I know as well as they do (if they care to admit) that unlike in these countries our streets, sidewalks and unused residential and commercial lots are strewn with litter and trash, and our rivers, creeks and canals clogged with toxic personal, commercial and industrial waste.
Where is our self-respect that we make of our towns and cities one big garbage dump? Where is our pride of place that we are not ashamed of our dirty surroundings? We are clean in our persons and in our homes. But we do not have the community spirit to care that public places are clean and free of litter.
Poverty is not to blame here. Litterers are also found in rich subdivisions. The blame is more on our education system. World Bank reports its epic failure to provide our youth with basic knowledge and skills to earn a living. That is not half as tragic as its failure, as proven by corruption and irresponsible littering, to imbue our youth with self-respect, pride of place and community spirit.