This January 26, 2024, Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, will be 23 years old. Approved on January 26, 2001, it was the first law signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after taking over the Presidency from Joseph Estrada during the so-called Edsa-2 People Power Revolution.
Our group, the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation, Inc, was one of those who pushed for the passage of a law that will address the country’s garbage problem. I remember joining our senior (elderly) members and fellow director Bebet Gozun (who would later become DENR Secretary) in lobbying at the Senate and getting unsavory comment from one of the senators.
It took a disaster to speed up the passage of the law. In July 2000, a huge garbage dumpsite in Payatas, Quezon City, collapsed due to heavy rains killing hundreds of people. A few months after this tragedy, RA 9003 was passed.
After 23 years, where are we now in the implementation of the law? Congress, using its oversight power, can check this. A Joint Congressional Oversight Committee was created under Section 60 of RA 9003 to monitor the implementation of the law and oversee the functions of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).
Furthermore, Section 63 of the law mandates the NSWMC to report to Congress not later than March 30 of every year, giving a detailed account of its accomplishments and progress on solid waste management during the year and make the necessary recommendations in areas where there is need for legislative action.
If I were a legislator, I would ask for data on waste reduction. Section 20 of the law tasked all local government units (LGU) to divert at least 25% of all solid waste from waste disposal facilities through re-use, recycling and composting activities and other resource recovery activities after five years. Thereafter, waste diversion goals shall be increased every three years. This would be a good indicator of the success (or failure) of RA 9003.
I would also ask if the youth of today are aware of proper waste management. Section 56 of the law mandated the Department of Education to integrate environmental concerns in school curricula at all levels with particular emphasis on the theory and practice of waste management principles like waste minimization, specifically resource conservation and recovery, segregation at source, reduction, recycling, re-use, and composing. Given that the law is 23 years old, millennials should have learned these topics in the classroom.
I would clarify if NSWMC implemented Section 29 which mandates them within one year from the effectivity of RA 9003 to prepare a list of nonenvironmentally acceptable products (NEAP). It was only in February of 2021 that the NSWMC declared two products, plastic straw and plastic coffee stirrer, as NEAP through a resolution. Up to now, it is not clear whether such products have already been banned.
There are more questions that need to be asked. I hope that in spite of the heavy workload of Congress, the effectiveness of RA 9003 can be assessed before it turns 25 two years from now.