Pena: Environmental highlights of 2018

THE year 2018 is about to end so it is noteworthy to recall all the significant environmental events, both local and international, that happened this year. Good or bad, these events will influence the future of this planet and of humanity. These highlights were culled from the stories I wrote in 2018 in this paper. Here they are:

A bitterly cold U.S. and Canadian winter: The unusually cold weather started in December of 2017 and extended up to January this year. The freak weather has something to do with the Polar Vortex, a gigantic circular weather pattern around the North Pole which keeps super cold air locked up in the Arctic.

China’s import ban of some scrap materials took effect: The ban covers 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste. This campaign against yang laji, or “foreign garbage”, applies to plastic, textiles and mixed paper. The United States and other big waste generators were severely affected by the ban.

The water crisis in Barangay Margot and Sapang Bato in Angeles City: The crisis started when Clark Water reduced the volume of bulk water it supplies and sells to the Angeles City Water District (ACWD). The crisis was finally over in June when ACWD completed the construction of its pumping station in Barangay Sapangbato.

Boracay closure: After being called a cesspool by President Duterte, the island of Boracay was closed for six months starting in April 26, 2018 to give the government some time to rehabilitate it. It reopened on October 26, 2018.

WHO Air Pollution Report: The World Health Organization (WHO) released in May shows that air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts of the world. Data collected by WHO reveals that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

Heatwaves: After the cold waves, heat waves were experienced in Asia, North America and Europe, some even breaking temperature records. Summer temperatures soared across the United Kingdom and central Europe, parts of North America, including the US East Coast and Canada, and East Asia, such as Japan. These heat waves will probably make 2018 one of the hottest year ever.

Withdrawal of suspension orders: Newly-appointed Ombudsman Samuel Martires has withdrawn the suspension orders against nine mayors and other local officials who were earlier found liable for violating RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. Ombudsman Martires said that there is a need for Congress to revisit the law on solid waste management because the law is economically not feasible to be implemented.

Europe bans single-use plastic: The European parliament approved a ban on single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks or cotton buds beginning 2021. The measure was adopted with 571 votes to 53 and 34 abstentions. The European Parliament will enter into negotiations with the European Council of government ministers for the 28 member states.

Garbage from Korea: Around 5,100 tons of garbage from South Korea arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal last July 21. The shipment was declared as "plastic synthetic flakes." However, initial findings showed that the shipment contained used dextrose tubes, used diapers, batteries, bulbs, and electronic equipment. In the past, garbage from Japan and Canada were also exported to the Philippines.

Happy New Year everyone!


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