Dumaguete strives to be a “zero-waste” city

Representatives from different environment groups in Dumaguete City together with the chief of the city’s Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO) promote proper waste segregation and discuss interventions to address the city’s problem on plastic wastes during the Kapihan Forum on “Zero Waste and No to Plastics Drive” held on Jan. 16, 2019 at Bethel Guest House, Dumaguete City. Seated (l-r) are PIA - Negros Oriental GIC Coordinator Jennifer Tilos, BPI-Bayan Project Coordinator and Kinaiyahan President Gary Rosales, FENOr President Esther Windler, and Zero Waste Cities Project - Dumaguete Project Coordinator Meric Ferrer. (PIA7-NegOr)

In observance of Zero Waste Month, War on Waste (WOW) Negros Oriental commended Bantayan, Lo-oc and Piapi for their dedication to the Zero Waste Cities Project.

Speaking at the Kapihan at Bethel on January 16, 2019 at Bethel Guest House, Merci Ferrer, Project Manager of Zero Waste Cities Project, stated, “By building cost-effective and small-scale Materials Recovery Facility (MRFs), Bantayan and Lo-oc have diverted more than 60% of their wastes away from Candau-ay dumpsite and our bodies of waters.”

Zero Waste Cities Project is a partnership between barangays Bantayan, Lo-oc, and Piapi and the following local and national non-governmental organizations: War of Waste Negros Oriental, Mother Earth Foundation, and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. The Project is funded by Plastic Solutions Fund.

MRFs are required under RA 9003 to facilitate composting of biodegradable waste and recycling. “Recycling has become a source of extra income for the waste collectors and the compost is being used as a fertilizer for gardens,” she added.

Describing the ten-step Zero Waste process that Bantayan went through, Gary Rosales, Project Coordinator of BPI-Bayan, highlighted the importance of Kapitan Nerio Grapa’s political will and the community’s involvement in waste assessment, segregation, and door-to-door engagement of households.

Already, Silliman University, Dumaguete Science High School, and various establishments in Dumaguete have announced their commitment to zero waste.

But more needs to be done. Esther Windler, President of Friends of the Environment Negros Oriental (FENOr) said that segregation at source, as required by law, and Ordinance 231, regulating Plastic Bags and banning Styrofoam, have yet to be enforced fully.

“Because RA 9003 has not been implemented for 20 years and Ordinance 231 for 9 years, our dumpsite is now full of plastics and the fish in our rivers and oceans are threatened with microplastics,” explained Ms. Windler.

All three speakers lamented the fact that the city has focused on inadequate IEC campaigns, instead of adopting the comprehensive approach of Zero Waste by the three barangays. They also questioned the city’s plans for a centralized MRF which does not foster segregation at source, deprives barangays the benefits of composting and recycling, and reduces the monetary value of recyclables due to contamination with mix wastes.

Unlike Sipalay, Dipolog, San Carlos, and other cities, Dumaguete has yet to issue an Executive Order and provide leadership by example in order for Dumagueteños to follow the law and move towards Zero Waste.

The three Kapihan speakers urged the city to expand the Zero Waste approach city-wide, thereby building a more engaged citizenry, enhancing the city’s tourism efforts, complying with the law, and protecting public health.

If Dumaguete joins the ranks of Zero Waste Cities in the Philippines and worldwide, it would be a positive legacy for future generations.