Tuntungin-Putho aims to be a zero-waste barangay

Barangay chief Ronaldo Oñate of Tuntungin-Putho, Los Baños strongly aspires to transform his barangay into a zero waste disposal community.

He said that he and the barangay residents work hard to attain this long-term goal. Since his election as punong barangay, he had always been targeting zero-waste disposal.

“Hindi kami kuntento duon sa hakot-hakot lang ng basura, … ngayon nandito na kami sa lebel na ito, hindi pa rin kami kuntento. Talagang gusto naming marating, zero waste disposal,” he said with reference to an already reduced-waste disposal status.

Oñate also said that the community has been on this project for a couple of years now. Under his watch and leadership, the barangay has already identified ways to minimize waste generation and disposal, as well as to turn these wastes into something that is useful and beneficial to the residents of the barangay.

Problem still

Solid waste management remains a big challenge in our country. With rapid population and industrial growth, generated waste already increases just as quickly and steadily.

According to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), the Philippines waste generation summed up to 37,427.46 tons per day in 2012 and was at 40,087.45 tons per day in 2016.

Calabarzon (Region 4A) landed on the second spot among all regions in our country that generated the biggest volume of waste in 2016, with a waste generation of 4,440.15 tons per day from 4,145.52 in 2012.

An article published at Philstar Global cites Engr. Reynaldo Estiponia, acting director of the MMDA’s Solid Waste Management Office, as saying that the government allots P1.7 billion yearly for garbage collection and disposal to sanitary landfills. The report further says that Estiponia mentioned the duty of local government units (LGU) to collect garbage.

Chapter 2 Section 10 of Republic Act No. 9003, also known as the “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,” states that LGUs shall be responsible for the implementation and enforcement of this law. Among the tasks is conducting segregation and collection of solid wastes at the barangay level, particularly for biodegradable, compostable and reusable wastes.

In addition, individuals under the jurisdiction of LGUs are also responsible for solid waste management in their respective areas. Presidential Decree No. 825  directs all citizens and residents of the Philippines, educational institutions, and commercial and industrial establishments to clean their own surroundings, canals, roads, or streets in their immediate premises.

Further, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 makes the protection of public health and environment certain through its stipulation of the legal framework for the country’s systematic, comprehensive, and ecological solid waste management program.

Braving the challenge

One activity launched by Tuntungin-Putho in an attempt to lessen waste generation is bag making, and the barangay is now off to make a name in the industry of handcrafted bags.

Bags created by residents are made from paper trash and other scrap materials. These are made and marketed under the project called ‘Bags for Life’ which had enable the baragay to promote its cause and also give livelihood opportunities for residents.

Oñate said that the demand is growing steadily. The barangay accepts orders not only from municipalities within Laguna but also from other provinces. Their clients include balikbayans who are about to leave the country once again. They buy in bulk and take the bags as souvenir from their vacation and homecoming in the Philippines.

The barangay recently decided to expand the ‘Bags for Life’ project by including bayongs or native bags.

Bayongs handcrafted from sticker labels of liniments.

In addition, the residents are experimenting with making chandeliers from a combination of recycled and new materials.

Flowers for aesthetics from recycled and new materials.

Chandelier from scrap materials.

They also promote the use of eco-blocks, also known as eco-bricks, which are made from cleaned plastic bottles filled with non-biodegradable wastes. Eco-blocks produced at the barangay are used for landscaping initiatives.

Biodegradable wastes, meanwhile, are turned into vermicompost.

Vermicompost with eco-blocks used for landscaping.

In the recently held Bañamos Festival, Tungtungin-Putho won an award for making use of the eco-blocks in their exhibit.

However, Oñate remains not satisfied with the different existing projects in the barangay. He said that they are also planning to produce biogas from kitchen wastes.

“Iyung gas na yun gagamitin sa mga basura din. Yung mga plastic na yan, tutunawin yan, kung baga gagawing bilog-bilog o kung anumang korte tapos gagawing panambak o panghalo sa semento, parang gagawing graba,” he elaborated.

Barangay Tuntungin-Putho continuously advocates for zero-waste disposal. “ Ang basurang itinapon mo, ibabalik ko sayo pero mapapakinabangan mo,” Oñate added.

Through this goal and advocacy of the barangay, they are able to construct and generate initiatives within their community that progressively lead to a variety of livelihood for their residents.

Outbraving obstacles

Tuntungin-Putho is aware that the process is still long and will definitely take them more time but certainly not far from happening.

Almost a decade ago, 10 villages in the city of Alaminos achieved full compliance with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 back in 2011, according to Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, making them the pioneer zero-waste city in the Philippines.

Further, former president Benigno S. Aquino III signed Presidential Proclamation No. 760 that declares the month of January as “Zero Waste Month”, which reflects back to the passage of Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 in January 2001.

With the current initiatives, the zero-waste dream of Tungtungin-Putho just might be a reality.

According to the Senate Economic Planning Office, implementation and compliance with the law remains a daunting task due to technical, political, and financial limitations of concerned agencies and LGUs.

“Nahihirapan kami, sobrang daming pinagagawa ng gobyerno, talagang ang bigat, wala namang kalakip na budget,” Oñate said.

Chapter 4 Section 45 of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 states that “rewards, monetary or otherwise, shall be provided to individuals, private organizations and entitles, including non-government organizations, that have undertaken outstanding and innovative projects, technologies, processes and techniques or activities in re-use, recycling and reduction. Said rewards shall be sourced from the Fund herein created.”

The same section says, “An incentive scheme is hereby provided for the purpose of encouraging LGUs, enterprises, or private entities, including NGOs, to develop or undertake an effective solid waste management, or actively participate in any program geared towards the promotion thereof as provided for in this Act.”

In addition, aside from the individual efforts of LGUs to achieve zero waste disposal, they are still looking after government’s firm support with their initiatives most especially with the implementation of such policies. Oñate hopes for a raise in their budget allocation for more projects that could increase their participation in implementing existing policies through procurement of machineries and other equipment.

Oñate also said that achieving a zero-waste community entails a lot of requirements, but Tuntungin-Putho is doing its best to attain their goal and to comply with all the conditions mandated by the governing law.

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