Speech of Mayor Del R. de Guzman at the “Community Right to Know: A skillshare on pollution transparency at Kapitan Moy, Marikina City, August 12, 2011 organized by the Marikina City Government and Greenpeace Southeast Asia

On September 26, 2009, alarm bells rang wildly when rain of unprecedented volumes in so short a time fell in Metro Manila and flood waters rose with such speed affecting a huge geographical area that it was close to impossible to respond to everything that was happening, to address each and every situation. Typhoon Ondoy was, undoubtedly the largest environmental disaster that we faced in all of our lifetimes.

Typhoon Ondoy also served as the biggest wake up call for a huge number of Filipinos, especially those living in urban centers, of the urgent need to prioritize environmental protection. I am glad, that those of us here, members of the Alliance of Seven, realize that and have decided to band together and work towards helping ourselves and Mother Earth.

As local government units we have a very important role to play in preserving and protecting our planet.  Section 3, Operative Principles of Decentralization, says,

“Local government units shall share with the national government the responsibility in the management and maintenance of ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction, subject to the provisions of this Code and national policies.”

The Sangguniang Bayan under the local government code is tasked to:

“Protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment, such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing, illegal logging and smuggling of logs, smuggling of natural resources products and of endangered species of flora and fauna, slash and burn farming, and such other activities which result in pollution, acceleration of eutrophication of rivers and lakes, or of ecological imbalance.”

I am confident that each of us here from our respective cities or municipalities has environmental initiatives we all can be proud of.

One of the environmental issues that each local government unit faces is pollution. Infrastructure and systems are slowly being set up or are already in place to ensure that solid waste pollution, for example, is addressed. Slowly, we are trying to address the problem of sanitation and domestic pollution.

There are two other types of pollution that is less visible and therefore, often overlooked - Chemical pollution from agricultural chemical use and industrial chemicals. The pollution load of these chemicals may be smaller compared to domestic pollution, however, these types of pollution are, certainly, much more damaging to the environment and to public health that many of us, admittedly, may not be aware of.

That is why, I support, the call for transparency in chemical use and handling. It equips us, local government officials, with knowledge of the chemicals that may be discharged into the Marikina River and the environment. With a pollution disclosure system in place, we become aware of the kind of chemicals and prepare appropriate measures to prevent pollution and build our capacity to handle future chemical spills or accidents.

Pollution disclosure such as the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register, will also help our communities help themselves. Pollution transparency also enables businesses to be more careful about the kind of discharges they may be putting out into the environment. It spurs research and development towards a kind of production that does not need toxic chemicals. It is one way of making communities, local government executives and corporations work together with a common goal stopping prevention from whatever source. Clean production saves precious pesos which may well be spent in education, poverty alleviation, and other social services.

I implore you, my colleagues in the Alliance of Seven, that we work in the direction of pollution disclosure not only for today’s generation but for future generations as well. Let us make the dream of a clean Marikina River, where we can once again swim in and fish from, a reality. Let us take this first step today.