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Environmentalists buck festival’s flying lanterns

By Rhadz B. Barcia LEGAZPI CITY --- Environmentalists across the country strongly oppose release of flying lanterns into the air, now on its second year in this city along the picturesque Legazpi City Boulevard as part of the month-long Ibalong Festival. Rodne Galicha, country manager of Climate Reality Project Philippines, launched an online campaign opposing the flying lanterns which so far generated thousands of signatures. Galicha also called on the city and provincial government officials in Albay including the city environment office as well as the DENR regional office here to stop the practice of simultaneously releasing flying lanterns here. The organizers of the “Wave Your Wish Ceremony” are selling ticket at P150 where the participants of big flying lanterns with a special piece of paper can write their wishes on. The Wave Your Wish Ceremony is all about positivity promoting self-enlightenment and hope. But Galicha dismissed the event as an act of dumping waste which is harmful to the environment. “We need to give hope to future generations, a clean and sustainable future. This activity may be in violation of Republic Act 9003, for mismanagement and improper segregation of waste and the fisheries code and wildlife act,” he said. Balloon releasing according to him may fall under the provision against aquatic pollution of our amended fisheries law. Galicha said that the organizers may face administrative liability and is punishable by fine of P300 to P500,000, apart from conviction which may include imprisonment of the offenders. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional office in Bicol issued a statement saying the department prohibits the release of helium balloons, led balloons and sky lanterns due to the potential environmental harm it will cause. It said that balloon debris may be mistaken as food by birds and marine wildlife. The release of these materials may prove to be fatal because it could block the digestive tracts of these animals. It can also cause entanglement in ribbons and strings that might hamper their movement and ability to eat. Similarly, the release of these aerial luminaries may constitute violation of pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 8550 as amended by RA No. 10654, otherwise known as the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. On November 3, 2016, the DENR Bicol issued a memorandum directing to refrain from using helium balloons, sky lanterns and other of similar nature in any events, activities or gatherings that are either being signed-off, sponsored, or co-sponsored To ensure responsible festival celebration, DENR Bicol recommended more environment-friendly activities to promote positivity, self-enlightenment, and hope such as blowing bubbles, fun runs, wailing and cycling events and tree growing activities. Following the strong opposition of environmentalists and the non-issuance of permit by the Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) the event was called off. BFP Legazpi did not issue the clearance to the organizers as it may constitute open burning. The organizers of the “Wave Your Wish Ceremony” accoridngly decided to cancel the event. They explained though that the sky lantern is made of biodegradable materials and can be lighted safely. “But due to erratic wind condition it can pose a threat which we don’t like to happen, as we prioritize everybody’s safety above all else. For those who have purchased the tickets, it can be fully refunded from the organizers’ headquarters booth at the Ibalong Festival weekend market and Legazpi Boulevard in Dap-Dap,” the organizers said in a statement.

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