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Alan Gensoli

DUPONT Environmental Committee Meets at D.C. Cruz Offices

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The DUPONT Environmental Respect executive committee met at the D.C. Cruz Trading Corporation offices along Magsaysay Avenue, Bacolod City, to finalize arrangements for their affair which will be held this evening at the Sugarland Hotel.


Alan Gensoli with DUPONT officials

Buligay

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Before that, I congratulate the membership of the Association of Negros Producers for the successful staging of the 29th Negros Trade Fair in Glorietta from September 24 to 28. This annual event is the longest-running provincial trade fair held in Manila every year, but the latest edition is unlike any before. This year's theme, "Smiles Beyond Borders", was the altruistic response of the ANP to Typhoon Yolanda and the Bohol Earthquake, and the interrupted lives that trailed behind. ANP wanted to help, that's for sure, but instead of sending another mothballed sweater from the trunk, ANP designed something more proactive, one that could impact positively on the capacity of victims to get up and move on. Some ANP members outsourced labor to affected areas to jumpstart livelihoods, while others bought debris and upcycled these into raw materials. What could have been left as garbage in the landfill was gathered and incorporated in Christmas ornaments, fashion accessories, home furnishings, even rosaries made of felled wood from Tacloban. Truly, one person's trash is another's treasure. These types of raw materials and skilled labor are abundant and more accessible in Negros, but the call to go beyond borders was loud and clear. And then, what goes around comes around. The goodness that the ANP showed came back in the form of increased sales. In a report issued by the ANP leadership, this year's trade fair raked in P17 Million in sales, or P4 Million more than the previous year. See? It pays to be nice.

Another group that recently went beyond its borders, although in a different way, is Gawad Kalinga in Negros. Led by Bobby Magalona, the organization has in time expanded its work from building houses to delivering services to the greater barangay community. GK is able to do this with the help of student-volunteers from different schools. With this army of young, energetic do-gooders, Bobby met with me in mid-September to discuss the possibility of teaching trash segregation to barangays. I thought I died and went to heaven, honestly. Educating residents in barangays is the key to segregation at source (at home), prayed for by our national garbage management law, Republic Act 9003. After years of work in this advocacy, I believe that education is the biggest challenge of all, not only because it is hard to change habits formed out of convenience, such as not segregating trash, but more so because of the daunting task of teaching over a hundred million waste generators that live on these islands from sea to shining sea. That we in the Bacolod Anti-Baha Alliance do not have a crew to begin the task makes the offer of GK manna from heaven. Now, our job is to train student-volunteers how to teach segregation in barangays. Although we admit that peculiarities between barangays will require mutations in garbage management systems, we are determined to simplify the work into a five-step process without sacrificing correctness.

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.

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