Philippines Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Philippines:

1. Human Rights Violation

The human rights crisis in the Philippines unleashed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016 and deepened in 2018 as Duterte continued his murderous “war on drugs” in the face of mounting international criticism.

According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), 4,948 suspected drug users and dealers died during police operations from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2018. But this does not include the thousands of others killed by unidentified gunmen. According to the Philippine National Police (PNP), 22,983 such deaths since the “war on drugs” began are classified as “homicides under investigation”.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) announced in June 2018 that it was seeking to impose annual unannounced drug screening tests on teachers and schoolchildren starting in the fourth grade. Police have killed dozens of children since the start of the “war on drugs” in June 2016, deaths which Duterte has dismissed as “collateral damage”.

The Duterte administration ratcheted up its attack on media freedom in January 2018 by threatening the closure of, an online news outlet critical of the “war on drugs”. The killings of journalists continued in 2018, with six murdered by unidentified gunmen in different parts of the country.

Experts have also taken aim at wide-ranging abuses beyond the war on drugs. They cited extrajudicial killings and summary killings of children, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, trade union representatives and land rights activists.


2. Plastic Waste

An audit in the Philippines has shown the country uses a “shocking” amount of single-use plastic, including nearly 60 billion sachets a year. Every day, almost 48 million shopping bags are used throughout the Philippines, adding up to more than 17 billion a year. And that figure does not include the smaller, thinner, and often transparent plastic bags known as “labo” bags – around 16.5 billion of those are used per year across the country. Plastic pollution is a major problem in the Philippines, which—along with China, Vietnam and Indonesia—is frequently listed among the world’s worst offenders, particularly on marine plastic pollution.


3. HIV Epidemic

The Philippines is facing the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the western Pacific, with a 174% increase in HIV incidence between 2010 and 2017. The United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) said it recorded about 13,384 new HIV infections by the end of 2018. The number, according to UNAIDS, is 203 percent higher than infections recorded in 2010, with only about 4,419.

According to a Department of Health (DOH) report, the UNAIDS said that the National Capital Region (NCR) recorded the highest number of HIV cases – about 39 percent of the total PLHIV population.


4. Hunger and Malnourishment

Citing government data, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that 2.4 million families in the Philippines experienced moderate to extreme hunger in 2018, 13.7 million Filipino children are undernourished, and that a fifth of Filipinos children until the age of five are underweight. One in three 12-23-month-old children suffer from anaemia while one in three children are irreversibly stunted by the age of 2.

The 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI) placed the Philippines in the “serious” zone with a GHI of 20.2 or 69th out of 119 countries studied. The country has been in this zone for the last three decades, improving at a snail’s pace, from 21.6, 20.6, to 20.2 GHI in 2005, 2010, and 2018, respectively.

A recent study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) showed the current chronic malnutrition rate among Filipino children aged 0 to 2 is at 26.2 percent, the highest in 10 years.


5. Water Crisis

In the Philippines, around 1 in 10 people still do not have access to improved water sources. Out of 105 million Filipinos, nearly seven million rely on unimproved, unsafe and unsustainable water sources and more than 24 million lack access to improved sanitation.

In 2016, one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the Philippines was acute watery diarrhoea, claiming over 139 000 lives. The situation could worsen as the country is beset by the El Niño phenomenon and climate change that contribute to increase in temperature, drying up the water sources.