Rey Anthony Ostria
Legazpi City, [08.16.17] – When an announcement was made that Ibalong Festival’s Weekend Market on August 16 will include a release of aerial luminaries, commonly known as sky lanterns, netizens and environmentalists were quick to call out the Legazpi City government.The local government of Legazpi City is expecting to release some 200 to 250 aerial luminaries, which they say is environment-friendly, at Dap-Dap village in Legazpi City in front of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Legazpi City Fire Central Station.
Bataris, Greenpeace Philippines’ online petition platform, started a petition that has since received some 700 signatures.
Rodne Galicha, country manager of The Climate Reality Project, said that the event may be a violation of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
“All of us should be enlightened that such an act of dumping waste is not good for the environment,” Galicha said in the petition. “We need to give hope to future generations, a clean and sustainable future.”
Nonie Enolva, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-Bicol spokesperson, condemned the activity, which, she said, is not supportive of the campaign to care for the marine life and resources.
“We cannot defy the rule of gravity that everything that comes up must come down,” Enolva said. “Some of those lanterns will end up in Poliqui Bay and can be mistaken for food by marine wildlife,” she said, mentioning the bay adjacent to the venue of the event.
In December 2013, a memorandum signed by then Bicol Acting Assistant Regional Director for Operation Joseph Reylito S. Espiritu prohibiting aerial luminaries was furnished to all provincial fire marshals in the region.
According to the memorandum, the problem with aerial luminaries, when not guided or controlled, is that is poses fire hazard to nearby areas.
CInsp. Jan Gary D. Lunas, Legazpi City fire marshall, said that there are residential areas and business establishments near the lantern release event.
Some of the residential houses, Lunas said, are made of light materials.
Supt. Achilles M. Santiago, assistant regional director for administration, said that any activity involving fire like fireworks and sky lanterns must pass through the local fire station.
“In that activity, we don’t know who the event coordinator is, but they did not have coordinated with BFP Legazpi,” Santiago said.
Crisanta Marlene P. Rodriguez, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Bicol director, also said that they discourage the release aerial luminaries.
“To ensure responsible festival celebrations, DENR Bicol recommends environment-friendly activities to promote positivity, self-enlightenment and hope such as fun runs, walking and cycling events and tree-growing activities,” Rodriguez said.
Enolva also suggested other alternatives to the release of lanterns.
“We enjoin them to do mural painting, do coastal clean-up or plant a tree that symbolizes a new beginning,” Enolva said. “We have been campaigning on planting trees, specifically mangroves to help arrest effects of siltation and climate change among others.”
“Maybe they can just make noise or use other material that do not need making fire and would not harm the environment,” Lunas said.
Meanwhile, Legazpi Councilor Lilian R. Ramirez, who heads the Weekend Market event, said that they will use biodegradable materials for the lanterns and dismissed Bataris’ petition.
“They also petitioned during the Nickelodeon issue in Palawan. We should also check their group, where they’re from, what they do,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said that they will use metal-free Japanese papers.
“This is the fourth year. There has been no untoward incident that happened in the past,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez also said that Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal gave them the permission to continue the event.
“We are not irresponsible. We always plant trees. We clean the seas,” Ramirez said.
The councilor also said that she also cares for the environment.
“This is the only thing I can say: We cannot even regulate the oil we release to the oceans. We have so many ships. Let us not focus our attention to only one link. There are many links,” Ramirez said.
She also said that even a big resort in Albay releases sky lanterns during weddings.
“Sabi nga ni mayor, hindi naman ito araw-araw na ginagawa. Hindi naman ito buwan-buwan na ginagawa namin,” Ramirez said. “For 200 lanterns that we will light up, grabe naman na pag-exaggerate nila yun. Legazpi City is also responsible. We organize tree-planting activities and coastal clean-ups.”
Galachi, however, said that biodegradability does not happen overnight.
“It will take time. Wires will take years. Paper will take months,” Galicha said. “As compromise, tie the lantern with a string. Don’t release it to the air and after the ceremony, let the participants bring their waste home.”