Calapan City, one of the fastest-growing new cities in the Philippines and one of its major rice bowls, has joined the BreatheLife campaign.
The City has committed to increasing public transport, improving its solid waste management and promoting clean energy sources.
A rapidly developing coastal city with a population of just under 114,000, Calapan’s economy centres on agriculture, fishing and associated agro-industrial activities, including food processing, and is a major food supplier to the country, though its tourism and machinery industries are also expanding.
Calapan has recently emerged from the process of participatory “visioning” and updating its Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which is intended to guide its planning, decisions, policies and action in the face of “current realities such as rapid urbanization, climate change conditions and the need for climate resiliency and disaster risk adaptation”, according to the city government.
The City already focuses on urban greening to mitigate the local, heat-stress impacts of the continuous increase in global temperatures and to enhance the aesthetic value of the city. It promotes native and indigenous plants, bred by the City Nursery, and procures materials that naturally filter carbon and absorb other pollutants to establish eco-gardens.
Restoration and maintenance of the health of the Calapan River continues under the Alive, Beautiful and Clean (ABC) Calapan River Management Programme. It includes a flood mitigation plan, as well as the relocation of informal settlers living along the riverbanks to a resettlement site, and the establishment and maintenance of a river linear park. It also involves mangrove management initiatives through eco-park establishments and maintenance and tree planting activities organized with government and non-government agency-partners.
Like many other Philippine cities, Calapan sees ecological solid waste management as a priority, with an emphasis on waste reduction. The city government runs a programme on waste segregation-at-source, conducts planning workshops and training on ecological solid waste management, values formation and Gender and Development (GAD) to solid waste management staff, and provides technical assistance on recycling and composting.
It provides support at the local (barangay) level, strengthening Barangay Solid Waste Management Committees (BWMCs) to tackle solid waste management at the community level, organizing capacity enhancement programmes for barangay eco-champions on proper waste handling and disposal.
As part of efforts to meet its municipal waste diversion targets, the City coordinates closely with the Association of Calapan Junkers, an official association of junkshop owners, to ensure that collection of recyclables diverted from the city’s solid waste is more efficient and fair — that is, performed by the association as a collective rather than only by selected junkshops.
Single-use plastic bags collected in the waste is shredded and combined with cement and sand to form eco-bricks, durable pavement block bricks that the city uses for its gardens and parking lots, another initiative contributing to the city’s waste diversion strategy.
Sanitation and maintenance procedures are in place at the City Sanitary Landfill, mainly to minimize the threat of air and water borne diseases, and deodorizers and sanitizers are applied to waste to maintain the City’s sanitary quality standards.
The City is intensifying its information campaign drive and public awareness programme to involve all Calapeños in waste reduction and ecological solid waste management.
Calapan is also engaged in environmental education and information dissemination as a crucial part of its efforts to successfully manage sustainable development. Some highlights include: printed IEC materials (posters, flyers, tarpaulins, newspaper, brochures, etc.), audio (air-advertisement), video presentation (video and TV advertisement), academic campaigns in the form of competitions like Environmental Quiz Bee, Search for the Most Eco-Friendly and PRO (Progressive, Responsible and Outstanding) Schools, Bangaray Eco-Park establishment, and other interlinked activities like Earth Hour and Earth Day celebrations and observations.
Calapan, as a major food producer, has policies in place aimed at sustainable food production and agriculture. AKAP (Angat-Kabuhayan sa Agrikultura Program), an integrated food production project, address sustainable production and consumption. The city government provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and implement agricultural livelihood programmes, but those who violate the City’s law prohibiting the burning of rice hulls (Ordinance No. 13) are disqualified from receiving incentives and benefits from the City Agricultural Office.
Laws safeguarding the air quality of the city also govern industry linked to food production in Calapan. The city government, in partnership with the national government (the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or DENR), conducts regular monitoring of stacks and vents of rice mills and power plants to ensure they meet emissions standards set by DENR.
At the household level, the City government conducts information campaign drives at the community level to raise awareness and encourage the use of alternative fuels for cooking. According to the government, reducing firewood as fuel is a step forward to minimizing household air pollution. It also runs a campaign encouraging the use of LED lamps and solar electricity.
As it is, around 60 per cent of government posts and streetlamps in Calapan have already been switched to LED, and 10 per cent of streetlamps are solar-powered, as part of efforts to boost energy efficiency. Some government institutions also use solar electricity.
Transport emissions in Calapan are influenced by and governed under the city government’s Calapan City Traffic Management Plan, which includes the following highlights: management, road construction and routing efficiency, a traffic decongestion plan, promotion of mass transportation, establishment of Anti-Smoke Belching Unit (in coordination with other government agencies), on-the-spot emission testing of vehicles, promotion of alternatives for mobile transportation (bicycle lane and walkable lane at the City Linear Park), construction of a proposed Centralized Public Transport Terminal, and a massive information and education campaign and public awareness programme. It is also an integral contributor to the implementation of Comprehensive Land-use Plan.
Some routine air pollution monitoring occurs at a few sites in the city under an intergovernmental agency partnership (with DENR) for the continuous monitoring of the status of air quality of Calapan City for PM10 and PM2.5, through the Baco-Calapan-Naujan Airshed Governing Board has been established. A Ten-Year Action and Financial Plan of the Board is being implemented. A monthly air quality report is displayed on a TV monitor installed at the City Market.
BreatheLife welcomes Calapan City on its clean air, climate and sustainable development journey.
Banner photo by Arnan C. Panaligan, Mayor of Calapan City