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A new law requiring requires local government units (LGUs) in the metropolis of Manila to reduce their waste disposal by 25% within five years was the first legislation that new president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, signed into law. To achieve this target, LGUs must segregate, recycle, compost and re-use waste, Arroyo, who was swept into power after her predecessor was forced to resign in January over corruption allegations, said. “I am told no other country in the world has adopted this integrated ecological approach to solid waste management,” international and national media reported her as saying.

The problem of rubbish in the Philippines is so acute that it recently provoked riots in the capital, Manila, where only 84% gets collected, and the rest has been left to rot in the street or dumped in rivers. Six thousand tonnes of waste generated by the city’s 12 million inhabitants and local businesses daily have been ending up in just one dump. Rubbish has also been dumped in an environmental sanctuary near the island of Boracay, the country’s premier resort. In Quezon City, near Manila, 217 people died last year when a giant refuse avalanche, caused by a portion of a landfill collapsing, fell on them.

Arroyo said her new rule would alleviate the pressures on the capacity of the country’s sanitary landfills, but in the meantime seven dumpsites in and around Manila would be used to provide a short-term solution to the problem. She also announced an imminent “garbage summit” to allow groups to “sit down together and work on a consensus to solve the immediate problem and to come up with a long term solution”. Arroyo also created a National Commission on Solid Waste Management, headed by the environment secretary and a private sector representative, and comprising representatives from the government, recycling, manufacturing, and packaging industries to tackle the problem.

A recent Greenpeace study estimated that Manila could recycle and compost at least 30% of its projected waste by 2005 if a genuine waste reduction programme was implemented. Greenpeace has also criticised efforts by some government officials and groups to revoke a provision in the nation’s recently-introduced Clean Air Act (see related story) banning incinerators.

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