‘Disposable face masks, itapon nang tama’ – DOH, DENR, environmental groups

Ni Raiza F. Cabugwang
(Photo credit: Tommaso Galli, Greenpeace New Zealand)

Ihiwalay at itapon nang tama ang disposable face masks at iba pang medical wastes upang hindi maging sanhi ng pagbaha at higit na paglaganap ng Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) sa bansa.

Ito ang panawagan ng Department of Health (DOH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), kasama ang EcoWaste Coalition at Greenpeace Philippines sa publiko lalo na sa mga ospital at quarantine facilities ukol sa “proper waste segregation”.

Ayon sa isinagawang pag-aaral kamakailan ng Asian Development Bank, naungusan ng lungsod ng Maynila ang apat pang siyudad sa Southeast Asia na kinabibilangan ng Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Bangkok, Thailand; at Hanoi, Vietnam sa tinatayang nakapaglalabas ng medical waste para sa COVID-19. Base sa pag-aaral, umabot sa 280 metriko toneladang medical waste kada araw o 16,800 tonelada sa loob ng 60 araw ang nailalabas na medical waste ng lungsod.

Nakuhanan naman ng larawan ng grupong Basura Patrollers ang disposable masks na nakakalat sa mga estero at bangketa ng Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Pasay, at Quezon City. 

Lubha rin ang pagkabahala ng grupo sa mga itinapong face masks sa labas ng Rizal Memorial Sports Complex kung saan kamakailan ay maraming  locally stranded individuals ang nagtipon para sa libreng masasakyan pauwi sa kani-kanilang probinsya.

Nadiskubre rin ng EcoWaste Coalition ang mga itinapong surgical face masks sa Baseco Beach sa Port Area, Manila at sa baybayin ng Barangay Muzon sa Rosario, Cavite.

Bunsod ng mga pangyayaring ito, umapela ang Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) ng DENR sa publiko na sumunod sa tamang paghihiwalay at pagtatapon ng medical waste. 

“We specifically call on all households to take extra precaution in handling their special wastes by initially disinfecting it with chlorine-based solution prior to collection to prevent any further spread of the COVID-19 virus in the community,” panawagan ng EMB.

Ayon sa DENR, ang problema aniya ay nasa hindi tamang pagtatapon ng basura ng publiko. Iminumungkahi rin nito sa Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) na papanagutin ang mga taong hindi susunod sa tamang pagtatapon ng medical wastes. 

“You protected yourself using a face mask, tapos you dispose [of] it just in front of you. Ito iyon na literally, basurang tinapon mo, virus ang babalik sayo,” saad ni DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda. 

Hinimok din ng DENR ang local government units (LGUs) na siguruhin ang pagsunod ng kanilang mga nasasakupan sa tamang paghihiwalay at pagtatapon ng mga basura alinsunod sa mga probisyong nakasaad sa Republic Act 9003 o ang “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act” at sa Republic Act 6969 o ang “Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990”.

Ayon naman kay DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, ang mga ospital at quarantine facilities ay nararapat na sumunod sa mga batas at alituntunin na base sa mandato ng EMB, kabilang na ang pagsunod sa tamang pagtatapon sa hazardous at non-hazardous waste.

Dagdag pa ni Usec. Vergeire, naglabas ang DOH ng Department Memorandum 2020-0170 o ang “Interim Guidelines on the Management of Health Facilities, Community Quarantine Units and Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMF) with Cases of COVID-19” hinggil sa tamang pagtatapon ng hospital waste.

Samantala, sinabi naman ni Jove Benosa, Zero Waste campaigner ng EcoWaste Coalition, na dapat aksyunan agad ng IATF at ng LGUs ang nakababahalang pangyayaring ito upang mapigilan ang pinsalang maaari pang idulot ng mga naturang basura sa kalusugan ng tao at sa buhay ng yamang-tubig. 

“LGUs should urgently act to educate and mobilize the public on proper disposal of soiled face masks, gloves, tissues, wipes, and other potentially infectious wastes to protect human health, especially the health of waste workers, and to prevent the spillage of such discards into the oceans,” pahayag ng Zero Waste advocate. 

Sang-ayon din si Leon Dulce, national coordinator ng Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment na dapat imulat ang publiko tungkol sa tamang pagtatapon ng face masks matapos gamitin.

“We need to educate the public and urge direct interventions from public authorities on the need to disinfect used face masks, tissue papers, and other waste potentially contaminated with COVID-19,” ani Dulce.

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