MANILA — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Friday launched the “Basura-Free Election 2016” drive to ensure a garbage-free campaign for the May 9 polls.

This developed as the DENR, together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec), renewed its commitment in ensuring that national and local candidates will properly dispose their garbage from campaign materials and also help in cleaning up the surroundings after the election.

The campaign period for national positions will begin on February 9 while campaign for local posts will start on March 25.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said the DENR campaign, themed “Kalat Ko, Linis Ko,” was launched in anticipation for the large volumes of waste produced during the election period due to the proliferation of posters, flyers and other campaign paraphernalia.

It was exactly the same campaign the DENR and partner agencies carried out during the 2013 midterm elections, he added.

The campaign is supported by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, major political parties, party-list organizations, candidates, youth leaders and civil society members.

DENR, DILG and Comelec officials signed a manifesto of commitment to implement a memorandum circular jointly issued by the three agencies in 2013.

The circular aims to ensure compliance to the provisions of Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, by political parties, candidates and their supporters during the election campaign and post-election periods.

The signing of the manifesto coincided with the 15th anniversary of the law’s implementation.

DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones led the signing with DILG Policy Compliance Monitoring Chief Atty. Rhodora Flores, and Laguna Governor Ramil Hernandez, along with local environment and natural resources officers (ENROs) representing 45 local government units.

Civil society groups pledging support for the campaign include Eco-Waste Coalition, Mother Earth Foundation, and Mother Earth Foundation, and the Academe through Miriam College represented by Prof. Ma. Rosario Wood.

National Solid Waste Management Commission – Secretariat Executive Director Eligio Ildefonso extended the total support of the Comelec as expressed by its spokesperson James Jimenez.

“The office of Comelec spokesperson Jimenez has called up to express full support to our program. It is unfortunate that the signing event coincided with the scheduled trial runs of the PCOS machines which require the full deployment of the entire COMELEC workforce from top to bottom,” Ildefonso explained.

RA 9003 provides for a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management system to ensure the protection of public health and the environment through the adoption of environmentally sound methods like waste avoidance and volume reduction.

“With the number of candidates on the campaign trail, one can just imagine the volume of campaign materials that will be generated and most of these will end up as garbage,” Paje said.

“This is the topmost concern we have and our partners in the green movement who are intensifying their campaign for a greener election, calling on the candidates themselves to clean up their act,” the DENR chief added:

According to the COMELEC, a total of 45,990 individuals filed their certificates of candidacy (COCs) last year for 14 national posts, 59 party list representatives and 18,010 local posts.

The figures are almost similar to the 2013 elections with 18,054 elective posts and 44,478 COCs filed.

In the 2013 joint memo circular, the DENR, DILG and Comelec also commit to ensure that political parties and candidates will adhere to RA 3571, which prohibits the “cutting, destroying or injuring trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value along public roads, plazas, parks school premises or any other public ground not designated as common poster areas.”

It likewise tasks candidates and their supporters to conduct a post clean-up of their campaign paraphernalia right after the elections.

Paje, meanwhile, called on the public to do their share in making the May polls garbage-free by reporting cases of election-related littering to authorities or bringing it directly to the attention of the candidates during public forums.

“This is particularly what the DENR, DILG and COMELEC are pushing through this effort – an awareness campaign to encourage voters to choose and watch out for candidates who really care about the environment,” the environment chief said. PNA/