Gov’t acts on plastic pollution  problem

Published November 17, 2019, 12:45 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Philippine government is moving to take official action on the worldwide  problem of plastic pollution.

At the cabinet meeting last week, President Duterte cited the problem of plastic garbage being dumped in the world’s oceans, there to accumulate and remain unchanged for the next 450 years, posing a danger to whales and other sea life. The Philippines,  according  to one study, is the world’s third  worst  plastic polluter,  after China and Indonesia, although  the plastic wastes are largely from the packaging  of Western medicine,  soft drinks, and beauty products.

The President said he is considering a nationwide plastic ban in response to the growing international environmental movement, but he said he believes it should be enacted by Congress. He thus plans to certify as urgent a bill banning single-use plastics such as soft-drinks straws, stirrers, cups, cutlery,   sachets for pills and other medicine, and wrappers for food items. .

There are already two bills banning single-use plastics in the  Senate  filed by Senators Francis Pangilinan  and Cynthia Villar.   In the House, Rep.  Elpidio Barzaga Jr. has filed a bill banning single-use plastics in   all tourist sites and destinations.

According to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Filipinos use nearly 57 million shopping bags daily, or about 20.6 billion a year,   and 16.5 billion smaller and thinner plastic containers and 60 billion sachets annually. These are thrown away right after use, adding to the growing mountains of plastics in our landfills and in the seas around us.

In response to the growing worldwide movement  aganst plastic wastes, the world’s biggest users of plastic packaging for their grocery, medicine, softdrinks, and  beauty products – have taken stock of their operations and resolved to phase out single-use plastics by the year 2025. This is the private sector responding to the problem.

The Philippine government will now do its part, with President Duterte calling  for  action and Congress enacting laws  needed to carry out the program. Hopefully, the whole world will similarly respond to the problem and ban the use of non-degradable plastics,  while  the world’s scientists continue research on plastics that will not cause the problem of pollution that  is facing us today.