After the recent discovery of single-use face masks entangled in the coral reefs of Anilao, Batangas, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Sunday said the increasing amount of improperly discarded household health-care wastes amid the COVID-19 pandemic has become a serious cause for concern.
“The recent discovery of disposable face masks, plastic face shields and other household health-care wastes in our reefs isalarming. These wastes will harm both marine life and divers,” he said.
While it is vital to follow minimum public health protocols to curb the spread of COVID-19, it is as important to be aware of each person’s responsibilities to the environment, he said.
As remedial measures, Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny Antiporda said: “We have coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard to ensure that all international and inter-island vessels, and even fishing vessels, have placed yellow bins for the proper disposal and storage of generated COVID-19 related healthcare waste such as, used face masks, gloves, cottons, tissue papers and testing kits.”
Solid waste ending up in our waterways, especially the oceans, must be avoided, he said.
The DENR is also working closely with the Department of the Interior and Local Government that has a directive to LGUs on handling household health-care wastes, cleaning of esteros and reminding those living near waterways to not throw wastes directly in the bodies of water.
Antiporda acknowledged that handling of used face masks and gloves from households is more difficult than those collected from hospitals and quarantine facilities.
“These (quarantine and medical) facilities are required to put up a treatment facility and get a hauling permit, so monitoring medical wastes comes easy with these sectors,” he said.