By Harry Mercadero, SDO Marikina City
College instructor Anthony Rapista had studied and worked in Marikina City for eight years. Now that he lives in Rodriguez, Rizal, he couldn’t help but compare the two places, especially when it comes to environmental policies.
“Isa sa mga progresibong lungsod sa National Capital Region [ang Marikina]. Malinis ang kapaligiran, maayos ang paligid at disiplinado ang mga tao,” he said.
Rapista noted the cleanliness of Marikina’s roads and highways and how the city has a systematic structure for bike lanes.
“The construction of bike lanes in Marikina greatly affects the residents, especially during this pandemic. This provides an alternative mode of transportation to people since jeepneys and other transport systems weren’t allowed to operate during ECQ,” he added.
Rapista is only one of the many witnesses of how Marikina gives considerable weight in implementing local environmental policies. But the city’s efforts haven’t been only lauded by residents like him; they have also been recognized by no less than the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 2010, WHO recognized Marikina for “environmentally sustainable and healthy urban transport.” Between 2006 and 2008, the city has also received numerous recognitions for being a “healthy city,” given by WHO and the Alliance for Healthy Cities (AFHC).
Marikina’s system of giving bike lanes equal importance is a product of the Marikina Bikeways Project, which was designed to encourage people to use the bicycle as an alternative means of transport around the city.
Through the project, residents help promote an environmentally friendly and cheap transport system, lowering the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the air and decreasing the probability of having severe air pollution.
To address its waste management problems, the local government of Marikina is also implementing a project called “Eco-Savers,” a recycling scheme that aims to build a culture of discipline and thoroughly orient the youth on proper ecological solid waste management.
Under the project, learners from public elementary and high schools are encouraged to bring waste materials such as tin cans, water bottles, and newspapers in exchange for points. The points are then converted into school supplies like notebooks, pad paper, pens, and even food.
The Eco-Savers project has been named among the best practices of Marikina City by the Democratic Local Governance in Southeast Asia (DELGOSEA).
Through the DELGOSEA recognition, the local government of Marikina hopes that the Eco-Savers program will be replicated in other schools across the Southeast Asian region.
But not only does the initiative to implement environmental policies lie with the local government; residents themselves also join in the cause.
Some students of Marikina Science High School have initiated the Munting Basura, Ibulsa Muna advocacy, a campaign through dance and song that encourages Marikeños to observe proper waste disposal.
As the name suggests, the campaign aims to convince students and residents to refrain from throwing small pieces of trash elsewhere until they find an appropriate place to do so, particularly a trash can.
For his part, Marikina City Environmental Management Office (CEMO) area manager Jonald A. Jaralve also noted that the city has numerous ordinances on waste management in force. Legal policies have been placed to encourage waste segregation and avoid littering, burning, scavenging, and even illegal garbage dumping.
“Hindi pwedeng taga-kalat sila tapos kami ang taga-linis,” Jaralve said.
Jaralve also shared that in Marikina, garbage collection is scheduled per district and divided into two categories: biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Garbage trucks arrive in the city’s barangays, and when its bell rings, residents go out and place their wastes into the trucks.
CEMO also has implemented programs to recycle wastes for other uses, even for creative purposes. Plastic bottles, for instance, are recycled into street decorations, while food wastes are converted into fertilizer. Cooking oil and polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) is also used to make bricks for some of the city’s infrastructure projects.
Replicating Marikina’s policies
If given a chance, Jaralve said that he would gladly share Marikina’s environmental projects and policies with other cities and towns to be replicated all over the country.
He added that it takes some time—and political will—to properly implement these policies and integrate them into residents’ lifestyles.
“Gustong-gusto ko ‘tong i-suggest sa ibang mga bayan, probinsiya. Dapat ‘yong ating mga mga city ordinance, dapat gumawa rin sila ng ordinansa na kagaya ng sa Marikina,” Jaralve said.
But with people like Rapista around willing to replicate Marikina’s policies, Jaralve need not worry.
“If I am given the opportunity to implement practices from the city to my current province, it would be the ordinances and projects about waste segregation and recycling,” Rapista said.
This article was written and prepared by Harry Mercadero (Student-Journalist) and Lawrence Dimailig (School Paper Adviser) from Marikina Science High School, Division of Marikina City as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.