HOR COMPLEX, Quezon City (DWDD) – The practice of “siga’’ or burning as a way of disposing garbage such as leaves or wood, especially in backyards and empty lots, will soon be a thing of the past.
The House committee on ecology has approved House Bill 4271 which seeks to ban traditional, small-scale community incineration or “siga”, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 8749, otherwise known as the Clean Air Act of 1999.
The bill also aims to increase the penalty for burning of solid wastes by amending Republic Act N. 9003, otherwise known as the “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.”
Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Party-list, Bagong Henerasyon), author of the bill, explained the act of burning trash, leaves, paper, or wood is not beneficial to the environment.
“The cultural belief that burning leaves is good for trees has no scientific basis whatsoever. The resulting smoke is a daily nuisance for all Filipinos who have to breathe the polluted air,” Herrera-Dy said.
In her sponsorship speech during the hearing presided by the committee’s senior vice chairman Rep. Lawrence Fortun (1st District, Agusan del Norte), Herrera-Dy said burning even biodegradable products releases harmful pollutants and particles into the air, including carcinogens and furans.
She said the burning of treated wood releases arsenic while burning plastic and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products release hydrogen chloride. On the other hand, incinerating painted items releases lead, she explained.
“All of these things we unconsciously breathe into our bodies on a daily basis by inhaling polluted air. We increase our risks for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, reduced lung function, pulmonary cancer, pneumonia, heart disease, stroke and birth defects,” Herrera-Dy said.
She cited a study published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014 which stated that air pollution emerged as the single, largest environmental health risk.
“Seven million people died in 2012 due to air pollution. One in every eight deaths is caused by air pollution hazard diseases,” Herrera-Dy said.
“Siga” as defined under the bill refers to the “traditional small-scale method of burning of wastes resulting from cleaning the backyard such as fallen leaves, stems and other similar matters from plants and trees in the backyard where the burning is done.”
The bill amends Section 20 of RA 8749 which reads as follows: “Section 20. Ban on Incineration and Siga. Incineration, hereby defined as the burning of municipal, biomedical and hazardous waste, including “Siga”, the traditional small -cale method of burning wastes such as twigs, leaves, stems, which processes emit poisonous and toxic fumes is hereby prohibited. Provided, however, that the prohibition shall not apply to crematoria.
It provides further that the incineration of bio-medical wastes, infectious wastes and medical wastes shall be permitted only insofar as to prevent any infection or spread of diseases. The incineration of these wastes and the underlying reasons for such incineration shall be reported to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Local government units are hereby mandated to promote, encourage and implement in their respective jurisdiction a comprehensive ecological waste management that includes waste segregation, recycling and composting.
With due concern on the effects of climate change, the DENR shall promote the use of modern, environmentally-sound and safe non-burn technologies for the handling, treatment, thermal destruction, utilization, and disposal of sorted, unrecycled, uncomposted, biomedical and hazardous wastes.”
The bill also amends Section 49 paragraph B of RA No. 9003 to read as follows: “Section 49. Fines and Penalties.
(b) Any person who violates Section 48 paragraphs (2) and (3) shall, upon conviction, be punished with a fine of not less that P2,000 but not more than P10,000 and imprisonment of not less than three days but to not more than 30 days.”
The bill mandates the DENR to “report to Congress, not later than the 30th of March each year following the approval of the Act, the progress in the implementation of the provisions of this Act, including the date and statistics of the number of offenders apprehended, the amounts of fines imposed, and the number of days of imprisonment imposed, all in violation of the provisions of this Act.”
Herrera-Dy said the Clean Air Act provides for an explicit ban on incineration but excludes from the application of the ban on ‘siga.’
On the other hand, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act enacted in 2001 provides an explicit ban on the burning of solid waste and imposes upon those convicted of violation of the ban on the open burning of solid waste with a fine ranging from P300 to P1,000 or alternately imprisonment for a period ranging from one day to 15 days. CONGRESS / MCAG