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Alan Gensoli

Where the road forks

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In self-mastery class, one of the provocative mantras constantly hummed to our ears goes this way: "Every moment is a moment of choice, and every choice leads to results. We are responsible for our results." Nevermore is this mantra unnerving than now when we near the fork of the road, where one way leads south and the other leads west, always crossing, never meeting.

Three weeks ago I wrote about Waste to Worth, an initiative that would turn our unsegregated trash into diesel fuel and electricity. Last week I wrote about the Surallah Cluster Sanitary Landfill in South Cotabato where Gov. Daisy Fuentes successfully wrestled with the bane of solid waste management (SWM): garbage segregation at home. Because I am for segregation, my heart leans towards Surallah. But because we have scandalously failed at segregation, my brain is not giddy about letting Waste to Worth go. To choose one is to chuck the other, there cannot be 50 shades of gray. If we segregate garbage, completely or partially, there will not be enough trash to produce fuel and power. If we do not segregate for the purpose of turning waste to worth, we will never get into the discipline of segregation, and when systems fail us, as similar systems have in San Fernando, Pampanga and in Cebu, we will be left with tons of garbage we don't know what to do with. The choices are distinct, one leading south, the other headed west, always crossing, never meeting. And we have to choose only one.

Following Gov. Daisy

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Its name an abbreviation of "South of Allah", Surallah is one of the leading towns of South Cotabato. This is where I find renewed hope for garbage segregation. In last week’s meeting of the Bacolod Anti-Baha Alliance, Galing Pook Foundation Chairman Lito Coscolluela shared that the Surallah Cluster Sanitary Landfill is a 2014 Galing Pook Awardee.

Wang Canfa

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There are those who claim to be environmental lawyers and then there is Wang Canfa who claims nothing but fairness for victims of environmental tyranny. One of the recipients of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Awards is Chinese lawyer Wang Canfa, honored for upholding the rights of the poor against companies that devastate the environment. He is the founder of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, which gives free legal advice. Wang Canfa seems to be driven by a keen understanding of how pollution leads to loss of property and livelihood. This connection is extremely important, and I will go back to this later in the column.

Established in 1998, CLAPV is part of the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. Its primary goal is to nudge government to enforce environmental laws (sounds terribly familiar). Wang Canfa said, "China has many laws and regulations regarding the environment, but the situation just gets worse because they are often not implemented." Wang Canfa is the perfect Magsaysay awardee then, for by his recognition we are reminded that the Philippine government has failed to enforce our primary environmental law, Republic Act 9003. Both former president Gloria Arroyo and current president Benigno Simeon Aquino are equally to blame.

Waste to Worth

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A couple of months back, a representative of Waste to Worth Innovations (W2WI) came to town to discuss the possibility of finding an enduring solution to our solid waste management (SWM) problems, addressing issues like non-segregation of trash and the eventual ineffectiveness of landfilling. Jill Boughton is a former employee of Procter & Gamble. In 2010, the multi-national expressed its desire to put an end to all the consumer and manufacturing waste it generates that end up in landfills. P&G organized a team to study how value may be extracted from trash and transformed into resource. The approach came to be known as Waste to Worth. After three years of research, W2WI was formed with Jill as team leader. Firm in its commitment to the cause, P&G has since remained a close collaborator of W2WI.

The Great Stink

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Thames was the main source of water in Victorian London. Waterwheels moved water from the river into homes for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Starting 1815, however, household waste from sewers was discharged at the Thames. Good thing, not all could afford the fee to empty their sewers into the river. Bad thing, the sewers of poorer commoners soon overflowed into the streets. That happens when progress is not inclusive. Unlike in the Philippines where people are allowed to build houses on top of creeks and rivers so they can automatically, by gravity, discharge their waste. No need for sewers and fees. I am really mocking, okay?

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