As millions of Filipinos prepare for the annual commemoration of Undas, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu reminded local government units (LGUs) of their duty to enforce the country’s solid waste management law in memorial parks and public cemeteries nationwide.

Cimatu said LGUs need to step up their implementation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 as people continue to generate huge volume of garbage during the observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, practically turning graveyards into dumpsites.

If necessary, Cimatu said LGUs may apply the full force of the law against litterbugs if only to send strong message that littering would not be tolerated.

“LGUs should not hesitate penalizing litterbugs by imposing fines or making them render community service,” Cimatu suggested.

An estimated 30,000 tons of garbage is generated in the country every day, with 8,000 tons produced in Metro Manila alone. The volume shoots up during public events like Undas.

Last year, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority reported that more than 5,000 tons of trash were hauled just from six major public cemeteries and memorial parks in the metropolis.

Cimatu said he hopes this will not be repeated this year and that the public will “avoid generating waste, especially plastic that end up in landfills where it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose.”

RA 9003 provides that the LGUs are primarily responsible for waste segregation and disposal.

During Undas, Cimatu said the LGUs should reduce the amount of trash gathered from graveyards and minimize waste that go into landfills.

However, Cimatu said the general public must also do its share in keeping graveyards clean and free of trash.

He then appealed to those who will pay homage to their departed loved ones to make the observance of Undas more meaningful by keeping memorial parks and public cemeteries “waste-free.”

Cimatu said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will never get tired of reminding the public about proper waste disposal “until the time comes when all of us who troop to cemeteries during Undas show respect for both the living and the dead.”

“Let us respect the sanctity of both the occasion and the final resting place of our departed loved ones by making the surroundings free from unwanted garbage,” Cimatu pointed out.

Meanwhile, Cimatu urged everyone to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle during Undas.

He called on visitors at cemeteries to “reuse, reduce and recycle.”

“Have your vehicles regularly checked for cleaner emissions. Avoid traffic hours and known congested roads, if possible. Walk or ride a bike, even for just part of the way to your destination,” he added. ###