Malapascua Tourist Information

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Rusty Nails and Broken Glass

Yesterday my four year old daughter came back limping, she had, like her sisters before her been the unfortunate recipient of a chunk of rusty metal in her foot. When I asked her where she got it she directed me to the site of a recent beach fire. Not the type of beach fire where people cook or enjoy a latte night drink – one made with wood and coal. This fire was a shallow grave for metal, plastic and glass bottles and what made me mad was it was less than 30 meters from where the garbage collection area is in Malapascua.

I understand that advances in environmental policies can take a little time to sink in, especially when they represent a fundamental change from years of practice. What I don’t understand is that: The effort needed to dig a hole in the sand, fill it with garbage and waste money on fuel to burn it is surely more costly than transporting the garbage to the collection area a stone’s throw away.

Having drawn a small but bewildered crowd transferring the charred remains into an old rice sack and thanking people for warning me about the dangers of handling broken glass mixed with sand, I placed the garbage where it should have been deposited in the first place and set about investigating the mentality of this reckless practice.

With the little Cebuano I speak I was able to conclude that the reasons for burning trash in the otherwise beautiful sand of Bario beach fell into three main categories. In order of likelihood they were as follows.

  1. That’s the way it’s always been done.
  2. Lack of knowledge of the garbage collection point.
  3. The garbage collection area is too far away.
  4. It’s easier to dig a hole than to buy a sack for P2.

Health Issues

Burning garbage releases many toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Every kilo of plastic burned is equivalent of pouring half a liter of oil directly into the ocean (that’s where the majority smoke ends up). The worst types of burned material for human health is rubber and nylon, these can bring on an asthma attack or even a heart attack, the worst case is premature death.

Legality

This practice of open burning of waste is known nationally as pagsisiga and it’s largely harmless if the fire contains only biodegradable material such as leaves or untreated wood. The moment a plastic bottle or other non-biodegradable/incombustible materials are used (metal, glass, plastics, rubber, nylon), my concerns are piqued and laws punishable with a fines and imprisonment start to get broken. Here are a couple of these laws:

PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 825

All garbage, filth and other waste matters, shall be placed in the proper receptacles for the disposition thereof by garbage collectors.

Any person, who shall litter or throw garbage, filth, or other waste matters in public places, such as roads, canals, beaches or parks, shall suffer an imprisonment of not less than 5 days nor more than one year or a fine of not less than P 100 nor more than P 2,000.00 or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the Court or tribunal, without prejudice to the imposition of a higher penalty under any other law or decree.

Republic Act No. 9003 (Solid Waste Management Act) Section 48

The following acts are prohibited:

  • The open burning of solid waste
  • Open dumping, burying of biodegradable or non-biodegradable materials in flood prone areas

Violators will be fined or charged not less that P300 but not more than P1,000

Violators will be imprisoned not less than one day to not more than 15 days.

Administrative Sanctions. – Local government officials and officials of government agencies concerned who fail to comply with and enforce rules and regulations promulgated relative to this Act shall be charged administratively in accordance with R. A. 7160 and other existing laws, rules and regulations.

 

So despite the obvious hazards of mixing sharp rusty metal, broken glass and ineptly opened tin cans with sand, and despite the unsightliness, the obnoxious smell and significant health implications and even despite the laws expressly forbidding pagsisiga, this is still a common practice in Malapascua.


So, What can be done about it?

Back to my basic field research – the main reasons for open burning.

  1. That’s the way it’s always been done.
  2. Lack of knowledge of the garbage collection point.
  3. It’s easier to dig a hole than to buy a sack for P2.

I believe these three main motives can be mitigated with just two objectives.

  1. Numbers one and two could be covered with education. Specifically education into the health and legal status of open burning.
  2. Number three could be solved with trivial funding to purchase sacks for the purpose of garbage disposal. These sacks could be marked with an indelible stripe to ensure their intended purpose is fully respected.

Both of these objectives would benefit greatly from government support or at the very least from government led policy exposure. It’s the responsibility of everyone on the island to make a tiny adjustment in their garbage disposal routine and if the government can endorse this movement publicly and regularly, adjusting to these plans can benefit us all.

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome. Either comment below or email me on andy@malapascuainfo.com


Sources:

http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno9003.htm

http://www.chanrobles.com/presidentialdecreeno825.htm

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The resort is located directly on Malapascua’s white Bounty beach and offers a family style and relaxed atmosphere. All together 18 rooms have been integrated into a natural tropical garden with coconut and various flowering trees, ferns and orchids.

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