Environmental issues in the Philippines
The Environment of the Philippines is prone to natural disasters, particularly typhoons, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis, lying as it does astride the typhoon belt, in the active volcanic region known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, and in the geologically unstable region between the Pacific and Eurasian tectonic plates.
The Philippines also suffers major human-caused environmental degradation aggravated by a high annual population growth rate, including loss of agricultural lands, deforestation, soil erosion, air and water pollution, improper disposal of solid and toxic wastes, loss of coral reefs, mismanagement and abuse of coastal resources, and overfishing.
Although water resources become scarce in some regions and seasons, the Philippines as a whole has more than enough surface and groundwater. However, the neglect of a coherent environmental policy led to the actual situation, in which 58% of the groundwater is contaminated. The main source of pollution is untreated domestic and industrial wastewater. Only one third of Philippine river systems are considered suitable for public water supply.
It is estimated that in 2025, water availability will be marginal in most major cities and in 8 of the 19 major river basins. Besides severe health concerns, water pollution also leads to problems in the fishing and tourism industries. The national government recognized the problem and since 2004 has sought to introduce sustainable water resources development management (see below).
Only 5% of the total population is connected to a sewer network. The vast majority uses flush toilets connected to septic tanks. Since sludge treatment and disposal facilities are rare, most effluents are discharged without treatment. According to the Asian Development Bank, the Pasig River is one of the world's most polluted rivers. In March 2008, Manila Water announced that a wastewater treatment plant will be constructed in Taguig. The first Philippine constructed wetland serving about 700 households was completed in 2006 in a peri-urban area of Bayawan City which has been used to resettle families that lived along the coast in informal settlements and had no access to safe water supply and sanitation facilities.
Over the course of the 20th century the forest cover of the Philippines dropped from 70 percent down to 20 percent. In total, 46 species are endangered, and 4 were already eradicated completely. 3.2 percent of total rainforest has been left. Based on an analysis of land use pattern maps and a road map an estimated 9.8 million ha of forests were lost in the Philippines from 1934 to 1988. Illegal logging occurs in the Philippines and intensify flood damage in some areas.
According to scholar Jessica Mathews, short-sighted policies by the Filipino government have contributed to the high rate of deforestation:
The government regularly granted logging concessions of less than ten years. Since it takes 30–35 years for a second-growth forest to mature, loggers had no incentive to replant. Compounding the error, flat royalties encouraged the loggers to remove only the most valuable species. A horrendous 40 percent of the harvestable lumber never left the forests but, having been damaged in the logging, rotted or was burned in place. The unsurprising result of these and related policies is that out of 17 million hectares of closed forests that flourished early in the century only 1.2 million remain today.
Due to industrial waste and automobiles, Manila suffers from air pollution, affecting 98% of the population. Annually, the air pollution causes more than 4,000 deaths. Ermita is Manila's most air polluted district due to open dump sites and industrial waste. According to a report in 2003, The Pasig River is one of the most polluted rivers in the world with 150 tons of domestic waste and 75 tons of industrial waste dumped daily.
Recognizing the need to tackle the environment issues as well as the need to sustain development and growth, the Philippines came up with the Sustainable Development Strategy. The nation for the Sustainable Development Strategy includes assimilating environmental considerations in administration, apposite pricing of natural resources, conservation of biodiversity, rehabilitation of ecosystems, control of population growth and human resources development, inducing growth in rural areas, promotion of environmental education, strengthening citizens’ participation, and promoting small to medium-sized enterprises and sustainable agricultural and forestry practices. One of the initiatives signed in part of the strategy was the 1992 Earth Summit.
Currently, the Philippines' Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been busy tracking down illegal loggers and been spearheading projects to preserve the quality of many remaining rivers that are not yet polluted.
- Pollution of the Pasig River
- Anti-nuclear movement in the Philippines
- Green politics in the Philippines
- Ecoregions in the Philippines
- List of protected areas of the Philippines
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