Trash in plastic bags equals floods | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Trash in plastic bags equals floods

/ 10:40 PM August 07, 2012

There is no storm. The torrential rains are  being brought by the southwest monsoon or habagat. Its opposite, the northeast monsoon, or amihan, brings the cold winds from Siberia during the Christmas season. Although there is a low pressure area east of northern Luzon, it is still out of the Philippine area of responsibility and is not affecting our weather. It is another typhoon, although far away from the Philippines, that is sucking the habagat and its rains that have caused massive flooding in Metro Manila and most of Central Luzon and parts of the Visayas. Remember, it is the rainy season so expect more rains and, God forbid, typhoons. September is the typhoon month.

The tons of garbage dumped by waves of Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard, the nation’s proud boulevard where one can watch the famous Manila Bay sunset and once the center of nightclubs, were those carelessly dumped by its residents and have now come back to haunt them.


The garbage washed ashore can be blamed on the lack of a comprehensive garbage disposal system by the Metro Manila Development Authority or the national government. Unable to cope with the tons of trash being disposed daily, Congress passed a law mandating recycling and passed on the responsibility of disposing the garbage to the local government units. To each his own.

Alas, most of the LGUs are only small towns and cities with no room for garbage dumps or resources to maintain them. So what most of them did was to hire contractors to collect the garbage and dispose of them, no questions asked. So what the contractors did was to dump the garbage in vacant lots and in waterways when nobody was looking—if they have no sanitary dumpsite open for them.


That’s the garbage that clogs the waterways and caused the floods, carried by the currents to the sea, and which the sea is now throwing back to the humans.

I suspect that some contractors are dumping the garbage they collected into the sea itself. When you go by boat from Roxas Boulevard to Corregidor, you will pass a part of the bay full of floating garbage, mostly plastics and styrofoam. The organic garbage has already sunk to the bottom. That floating garbage may be the trash that the contractors dumped there or the trash that floated down the waterways to the sea. Remember, there used to be boatloads of trash from the garbage dump at North Harbor taken by contractors to abandoned pits of coal mines on Semirara island. That was stopped because the island is the nesting site of sea turtles. Instead of dumping the trash on the island, contractors may be dumping them in the open sea where nobody can see them.

The garbage clogging the drainage systems of the metropolis, however, is only partly to blame for the floods. No drainage system can withstand the torrential rains that have been pouring on Central Luzon in the last few days.

There are some scoundrels, however, who purposely clog the drainage pipes of some streets precisely to induce floods. Why? So that vehicles will stall in the floods and they will earn by pushing the stalled vehicles to higher ground. Or they can earn fees from pedestrians who do not want to get their feet wet to use the wooden planks that they have laid above the water. Or they can ferry them from dry ground to dry ground on their pushcarts—for a fee. Trabaho lang, they will tell you.

That is par for the course in low-lying areas like España. But what about V. Luna street in Quezon City that was never flooded before? Why was it suddenly flooded one day so that many vehicles stalled and had to be pushed to higher ground by men waiting there? Workers of the MMDA found the drainage pipes blocked with rocks and garbage. Were the rocks lodged there by the floodwaters or purposely placed there to block the drainage pipe and cause the flooding? I think the MMDA should look into this.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development should also use the billions of pesos doled out to poor families to help ease the floods. In exchange for the cash, the DSWD can ask the recipients to police their neighborhoods to prevent their neighbors from dumping their trash into the estero, creeks and other waterways. Squatters living along the banks of waterways are especially to blame. They simply throw their garbage, and human waste, out the window and into the water and think no more of it. This is part of the garbage that the abused sea throws back at us.

The use of plastic bags by supermarkets, groceries and stores, and styrofoam by the fast-food chains, is another culprit. Some LGUs have woken up to this and have banned the use of plastic bags and styrofoam. Some are selling attractive, practical reusable cloth bags. Some fast-food chains are now no longer putting take-home food in plastic bags but in paper (they call it “green”) bags but are charging an additional five pesos for each. I remember the old days when our elders went to market carrying reusable rattan baskets or bayong. The annihilation of rattan groves and the demise of bayong-making was replaced by the rise of cheap plastic. Now we are reaping the whirlwind.


Plastic has many other uses; bags are only one of them, but now we are witnessing what they can cause. Other countries have already totally banned the use of plastic bags. They are making bags out of biodegradable material such as corn.

We have a surfeit of water lilies which have become pests clogging our waterways. We can use them to make attractive baskets and use them for marketing and shopping the way we used rattan baskets and bayong.

Click here for more weather related news.

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TAGS: As I See It, contractors, environment, Floods, garbage, neal h. cruz, opinion, Plastic bags, rains, Trash, waterways, weather
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