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Environmental issues in the Philippines

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Philippines' evident risk to natural disasters is due to its location. Being a country that lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In addition, the country is surrounded by large bodies of water and facing the Pacific Ocean where 60% of the world's typhoons are made[according to whom?]. One of the most devastating typhoons that hit the Philippines in 2013 was Typhoon Haiyan, or "Yolanda," that killed over 10,000 people and destroyed over a trillion pesos worth of properties and damage to various sectors[citation needed]. Other environmental problems that the country is facing include pollution, illegal mining and logging, deforestation, dynamite fishing, landslides, coastal erosion, wildlife extinction, global warming and climate change[citation needed].

Water pollution

Although water resources have become scarce in some regions and seasons, the Philippines as a whole has more than enough surface and groundwater. However, neglecting to have a coherent environmental policy has led to the contamination of 58% of the groundwater in the Philippines.[2] The main source of pollution is untreated domestic and industrial wastewater.[1] Only one third of Philippine river systems are considered suitable for public water supply.[2]

It is estimated that in 2025, water availability will be marginal in most major cities and in 8 of the 19 major river basins.[3] Besides severe health concerns, water pollution also leads to problems in the fishing and tourism industries.[4] The national government recognized the problem and since 2004 has sought to introduce sustainable water resources development management (see below).[5]

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.[6] According to the Asian Development Bank, the Pasig River is one of the world's most polluted rivers, running through the capital city of Manila.[1] In March 2008, Manila Water announced that a wastewater treatment plant will be constructed in Taguig.[7] 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.[8]


Over the course of the 20th century the forest cover of the Philippines dropped from 70 percent down to 20 percent.[9] In total, 46 species are endangered, and 4 have been eradicated completely. Only 3.2 percent of total rainforest is left. Based on an analysis of land use pattern maps and a road map, an estimated 9.8 million acres of forests were lost in the Philippines from 1934 to 1988.[10] Illegal logging occurs in the Philippines[11] and intensifies flood damage in some areas.[12]

According to scholar Jessica Mathews, short-sighted policies by the Filipino government have contributed to the high rate of deforestation:[13]

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.

The Philippines had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 5.91/10, ranking it 91st globally out of 172 countries.[14]

Air pollution

Due to industrial waste and automobiles, Manila suffers from air pollution,[15][16] affecting 98% of the population.[17] 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.[18] According to Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the country produces an average of 41 kilotons of garbage daily with almost 10 ktons/day coming from Metro Manila alone.[19] While most local government units establish a Material Recovery Facility (MRF), implement segregation at the source, and collect and process all recyclable and biodegradable materials, most of the municipal solid wastes are either disposed in the dump sites or openly burned, which further worsen the quality of heavy polluted air in the cities.[20] 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.[21]

Illegal fishing


The Philippines has a strong fishing culture due to its historically productive and diverse marine ecosystems. In 2018, 927,617 people were officially reported as being involved in “Capture Fishing”, and fish contributes to 50% of a Filipinos protein consumption.[22][23] This fish reliance has contributed to the current overfishing of 70% of Philippine fishing grounds and about 40% of fish caught being done illegally.[23][24]

COVID-19 lockdowns seem to have allowed an increase in illegal fishing. Karagatan Patrol ships using VIIRS (visible infrared imaging lure lights) have detected an increase in apparent commercial fishing vessels from 3,602 in February 2020 (before COVID-19 lockdowns) to 5,950 in March, which went back down to 1,666 in May when lockdown eased.[25] These vessels were detected in waters that only allow small artisanal fishermen using passive fishing methods, due to the area being a spawning ground for most fish species.[25]

Dynamite fishing

Dynamite fishing, also known as blast fishing and fish bombing, was outlawed in 1932.[26] It is a practice of throwing bombs into the water to kill and stun the fish caught in the blast, and then collecting the fish. In the process, the surrounding habitat (coral reefs), and kill both the fish too young to sell and destroy the eggs in the area. This damage is estimated to have cause $99.2 billion in losses a year, according to a study by Rhodora Azanza of the University of the Philippines.[24] As such, average fish yields have been reported to be decreasing. Jimely Flores, a senior marine scientist for Oceana, described the situation saying, “In some dynamited areas, if you dive you don’t see any fish at all.”[27]

Climate change

Both floods and droughts are predicted to increase
Both floods and droughts are predicted to increase
One of the most pressing environmental issues impacting the Philippines is climate change. As an island country located in the Southeast Asia Pacific region, the Philippines is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Some of these impacts include increased frequency and severity of disasters, sea level rise, extreme rainfall, resource shortages, and environmental degradation.[28] All of these impacts together have greatly affected the Philippines' agriculture, water, infrastructure, human health, and coastal ecosystems and they are projected to continue having devastating damages to the economy and society of the Philippines.[28]


Anti-nuclear movement

The anti-nuclear movement in the Philippines aimed to stop the construction of nuclear power facilities and terminate the presence of American military bases, which were believed to house nuclear weapons on Philippine soil. Anti-nuclear demonstrations were led by groups such as the Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC) and No Nukes Philippines. Coalitions argued that American bases in the Philippines perpetuated nuclear threats from other opponent nations of the United States, and that nuclear testing was transpiring in these bases. The nuclear threats and the bases also represented foreign intervention from the United States, which was a staunch issue among nationalists.[29]

A focal point for protests in the late 1970s and 1980s was the proposed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which was built by ousted President Ferdinand Marcos but never operated. The NFPC was formed by Sen. Lorenzo M. Tañada, the father of the anti-nuclear movement and the "Grand Old Man of Philippine Politics", to stop the opening of the power plant, which it succeeded in pursuing. Because the Bataan nuclear project was criticized for being a potential threat to public health, especially since the plant was located in an earthquake-prone location on Bataan Peninsula. In addition, the power plant was just less than 180 km away from Metro Manila, thus implicating multiple economic centers and regional sectors.[30]

The demand of the anti-nuclear movement for the removal of military bases culminated in a 1991 Philippine Senate decision to stop extending the tenure of US facilities in the Philippines. The late senator and lawyer Tañada stood up from his wheelchair and was greeted with tons of applause after the voting results were announced. Tons of toxic waste was left behind after the US withdrawal and anti-nuclear and other groups worked to provide assistance for the bases' cleanup.[30] The bases now exist as profitable tourist sites in the Philippines, such as the Subic Naval Bay in Subic and the Clark Air Base in Clark, Pampanga, which is a legacy of the anti-nuclear movement.[31] Despite this, the movement still continues to face challenges as attempts have been made to open the abandoned Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. In 2017 Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. Ltd. (KEPCO) and Russia's Rosatom offered to negotiate to rehabilitate the plant. Opposition to the nuclear plant immediately responded and quickly raised concerns on long-term disposal of highly toxic waste, safety and health issues, reliance on imported uranium, the high cost of decommissioning, and other adverse effects that would be reaped.[32][33][34]

Threats to environmentalists

The Philippines is sometimes considered the most dangerous country for environmental activists.[35][36] According to environmental watchdog Global Witness, at least 30 land and environmental defenders were killed in the Philippines in 2018, many of whom were in conflict with private business groups.[37] Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment recorded 46 deaths in 2019.[38] The group said activists have also been harassed, vilified, "red-tagged," and labeled as terrorists or "enemies of the state."[38][37][39]

Environmental groups have asked Congress to pass a Human Rights Defenders Bill to help protect activists and their families.[38]

Government policy

Environmental protection

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is responsible for creating, supporting, and enforcing policies on environmental protection by the Philippine government. The Department is also tasked with ensuring sustainable management of the Philippines' natural resources.[40] The Philippine Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) is responsible for environmental impact assessments, pollution prevention and control, as well as enforcing six main environmental laws in the Philippines.[41] The Philippines has also signed into several international environmental treaties,[42] with CITES protecting species from overexploitation due to international trade, and ratified the Paris Agreement.

Sustainable development

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.[43] 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.[44] One of the initiatives signed in part of the strategy was the 1992 Earth Summit.

Upon signing the 1992 Earth Summit,[45] the government of Philippines has been constantly looking into many different initiatives to improve the environmental aspects of the country.

Writ of Kalikasan

A Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy under Philippine law that provides protection of one's constitutional right to a healthy environment, as outlined in Section 16, Article II of the Philippine Constitution, which states that the "state shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature."[46] Kalikasan is a Filipino word for "nature".[46]

The writ is comparable to the writ of amparo and the writ of habeas corpus.[46] In contrast, this writ protects one's right for a healthy environment rather than constitutional rights.[47] The Writ of Kalikasan originated in the Philippines, whereas the two aforementioned writs have roots in European and Latin American law.[46]

See also



Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website

  1. ^ a b c Asian Development Bank; Asia-Pacific Water Forum (2007). Asian Water Development Outlook 2007. Asian Development Bank. p. 4. ISBN 9789814136068. Archived from the original on April 10, 2020. Retrieved April 14, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Asian Development Bank (2009). "Country Environmental Analysis for Philippines". Archived from the original on November 11, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2008.
  3. ^ Asian Development Bank; Asia-Pacific Water Forum (2007). Asian Water Development Outlook 2007. Asian Development Bank. p. 8. ISBN 9789814136068. Archived from the original on April 10, 2020. Retrieved April 14, 2008.
  4. ^ World Bank (2003). Philippines Environment Monitor 2003 (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2008., p. 18–19
  5. ^ Asian Development Bank; Asia-Pacific Water Forum (2007). Asian Water Development Outlook 2007. Asian Development Bank. p. 6. ISBN 9789814136068. Archived from the original on April 10, 2020. Retrieved April 14, 2008.
  6. ^ World Bank Group in the Philippines (2005). Philippines: Meeting Infrastructure Challenges (PDF). Manila. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 29, 2020. Retrieved April 9, 2008., p. 107
  7. ^ "Manila Water to Build P105-M Sewage Treatment Plant in Taguig". Manila Water. March 18, 2008. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved April 14, 2008.
  8. ^ Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (2010). "Case Study of Sustainable Sanitation Projects: Constructed Wetland for a Peri-Urban Housing Area Bayawan City, Philippines" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 14, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2010.
  9. ^ Lasco, R. D.; Visco, R. G.; Pulhin, J. M. (2001). "Secondary Forests in the Philippines: Formation and Transformation in the 20th Century" (PDF). Journal of Tropical Forest Science. 13 (4): 652–670. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 3, 2006. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  10. ^ Liu, Dawning S.; Iverson, Louis R.; Brown, Sandra (1993). "Rates and Patterns of Deforestation in the Philippines: Application of Geographic Information System Analysis". Forest Ecology and Management. 57 (1–4): 1–16. doi:10.1016/0378-1127(93)90158-J.
  11. ^ Teehankee, Julio C. (1993). "The State, Illegal Logging, and Environmental NGOs, in the Philippines". Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies. 9 (1): 19–34.
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  14. ^ Grantham, H. S.; et al. (2020). "Anthropogenic Modification of Forests Means only 40% of Remaining Forests Have High Ecosystem Integrity". Nature Communications. 11 (1): 5978. Bibcode:2020NatCo..11.5978G. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-19493-3. PMC 7723057. PMID 33293507.
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  19. ^ Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (2018). "Solid Waste Management in Metro Manila 2018" (PDF) (Infographic). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 28, 2021. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  20. ^ Agaton, Casper Boongaling; Guno, Charmaine Samala; Villanueva, Resy Ordona; Villanueva, Riza Ordona (2020). "Economic Analysis of Waste-To-Energy Investment in the Philippines: A Real Options Approach". Applied Energy. 275. 115265. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2020.115265.
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  32. ^ "Philippines looking at nuclear revival to meet energy needs". The Financial Express. May 23, 2018. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
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Further reading

This page was last edited on 24 November 2021, at 22:26
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