After leading government efforts to rid Boracay of its “cesspool” tag, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu is up for yet another difficult task of tackling the issue of solid waste management (SWM) across the country.

Cimatu announced on Monday that all field offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be directed to intensify the information campaign on proper waste disposal with focus on children and youth.

The environment chief made the announcement during the weekly flag-raising ceremony held at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

Cimatu said he believes that public education and involvement can positively impact the environmental attitudes and behaviors of young people and increase their knowledge on SWM.

He said the difficulty of changing attitude towards trash lies in preventing people from littering or managing their waste – whether on the streets or in establishments or homes, and whether or not disposal units are available or visible.

According to Cimatu, it has been particularly challenging to prevent littering because Filipinos have been used to others cleaning up after them.

“Nasanay na magtatapos tapos hahayaan na lang na may ibang kukuha o maghihintay na may ibang maglilinis,” he said.

Cimatu said that Boracay’s closure and the viral photos of trash found on the beachfront during the dry run to the October 26 reopening of the world famous island helped people appreciate the seriousness of the problem on solid waste.

Meanwhile, Cimatu reminded the public that much of the waste they throw on the streets, shorelines and other public places make their way into bodies of water.

“Di naman basta susulpot ang garbage sa rivers kung walang nagtapon,” he said.

He said that some of the garbage in the seas may also come from trash dumped by passing ships, and later washed onto the coasts by storm-driven waves.

Despite a growing clamor for him to tackle the Manila Bay issue, Cimatu said he would rather address first the garbage problem before reducing the coliform level in the bay.

“Uunahin ko muna ito because solid waste is a problem, and will be a problem in years to come,” he explained.

He nevertheless vowed to continue to run after those responsible for dumping waste in Manila Bay and its tributaries including Laguna de Bay, which shores had been reclaimed and is now subject of a case filed by the Laguna Lake Development Authority, an attached agency of the DENR. #