As the election period inches closer, politicians are not the only ones making their presence known. Environmental groups are also making their voices heard by pushing Green Electoral reforms ahead of the 2022 national polls.

The country’s EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace Philippines, Mother Earth Foundation, and Zero Waste Philippines recently filed an appeal to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) “to proactively integrate waste and toxic prevention in the conduct of the upcoming elections.”

On September 24, the pro-environment organizations, which were also joined by the Cavite Green Coalition, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability, Oceana Philippines, NASSA/Caritas Philippines, Urban Poor Associates, and other community-based groups, submitted the letter to the office of Comelec Chairman Sheriff M. Abas.

According to EcoWaste Coalition President Eileen Sison, it’s paramount for Comelec to champion environment-friendly initiatives for the upcoming elections as the country is still addressing previous problems caused by plastic pollution, climate change, and improper waste management. 

“Considering the problems already plaguing our society due to garbage, plastic pollution, climate change, and COVID-19, we urge the Comelec to champion much-needed policies and practices that will protect our fragile environment from being further degraded by the avalanche of partisan political activities leading to the 2022 elections,” Sison shared.

“We hope Comelec will commit to greening the 2022 polls to the best of its ability and with the participation and support of all stakeholders,” she assured. 

Here are some of the problems that the environmental groups highlighted: 

  • unbridled display of “indirect” political propaganda such as graduation and fiesta banners and tarpaulins;
  • the unregulated noise from mobile political propaganda and during campaign meetings;
  • the unchecked distribution and littering of sample ballots on election day;
  • the open burning of campaign waste materials, which is prohibited under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act;
  • the failure to avoid the use of single-use plastics and adding to the mounting plastic pollution that ends up in the waterways and the ocean.

To address these issues, the coalition of environmental organizations suggested the following measures:

  1. Adopt a resolution declaring and enunciating Zero Waste as a policy to effectively prevent and reduce the generation of garbage, including Covid-related waste such as used face masks and face shields.
  2. Create a special committee that will take the lead in the multi-stakeholders task of “greening” the elections and the strict enforcement of relevant environmental rules and regulations.
  3. Require all individuals and groups running for election to abide by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which, among other prohibited acts, bans littering, open dumping, and open burning of waste.
  4. Make it mandatory for parties and candidates to make use of recyclable and reusable materials free of hazardous chemical substances for their electoral campaign, and for them to conduct compulsory post-election clean-up.
  5. Use its moral authority to encourage parties and candidates to articulate in their electoral platforms how they plan to advance the state policy, as written in the Constitution, to “protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”
  6. Incorporate environmental awareness and responsibility in Comelec’s public information drive for clean, orderly, peaceful, honest, and fair elections.
  7. Regulate campaign motorcades, if not impose an outright ban, to address perennial problems with traffic congestion, noise, air pollution, and climate change.
  8. Work with the Department of Health to set regulations on poll campaign noise.
  9. Strictly enforce the laws, rules, and regulations on proper posting of campaign materials and enforce sanctions to those who violate them.

Apart from this plea, the EcoWaste Coalition intends to have a dialogue with various political parties and candidates to better inform them of the Philippines’ environmental situation and what they can do to help solve the underlying issues. 

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Image credit: Ocean Cleanup Group via Unsplash