More local government units (LGUs) are ramping up calls for a nationwide ban on single-use plastics amid the increasing household and medical wastes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Environmental group Oceana Philippines noted that when the country began the community quarantine due to COVID-19 in March, only Cebu and two cities and two municipalities initiated the adoption of a resolution addressed to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to ban single-use plastics nationwide and include it in the priority list of Non-Environmentally Acceptable Products and Packaging (NEAPP) as mandated to perform by the Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
At present, the number increased to 31 coastal local governments — six provinces and 25 cities and municipalities with similar resolutions.
Oceana pointed out that the growing clamor from the coastal local governments for the NSWMC to ban the nationwide production, distribution, and trade of single-use plastics should be given serious attention before there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean.
“The Philippines is an archipelagic country and wastes are sure to flow and swell into marine litter that endangers our fisheries and ocean ecosystem. No wonder that these provinces, cities, and municipalities upon whose shoulders the responsibility is lodged to manage the unmanageable plastics wastes are speaking out. May the political will of the Commission be harnessed to reduce the plastic menace from the source,” Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said.
The group noted that six provinces have passed Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolutions – Cebu, Southern Leyte, Masbate, Davao Oriental, Bohol, and Aklan.
Twenty-five cities and municipalities have passed Sangguniang Pambayan resolutions – Libagon, Southern Leyte; Liloan, Southern Leyte; Limasawa, Southern Leyte; Maasin, Southern Leyte; Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte; Pintuyan, Southern Leyte; San Juan, Southern Leyte; Silago, Southern Leyte; Cebu City; Lapu-Lapu City; Badian, Cebu; Bantayan, Cebu; Bogo City, Cebu; Ginatilan, Cebu; San Remigio, Cebu; Sibonga, Cebu; Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental; Antequera, Bohol; Panglao, Bohol; Bien Unido, Bohol; President Carlos P. Garcia, Bohol; Trinidad, Bohol; Libmanan, Camarines Sur; Baguio City; and Angeles City, Pampanga.
The local governments passed the resolution calling on the NSWMC to release the NEAPP list, considering the “deleterious” effects of the disposal of plastic bags and packaging materials into the environment.
The resolution affirmed that disposable plastic is a pollution problem and the only way to prevent it is to stop it at the source.
It upheld the “Philippine legal framework that if a material such as single-use plastic is listed as non-environmentally acceptable, the manufacture, distribution, or use of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials and importation of consumer products packaged in non-environmentally acceptable materials are prohibited and meted heavy penalties, such as P500,000 fine for the first offense.”
Oceana explained that the Commission was established under RA 9003 composed of 14 members from the government sector and three members from the private sector.
The Secretary of each member agency is tasked “to formulate action plans for their respective agencies to complement the National Solid Waste Management Framework.”
The Commission is also tasked to formulate and update a list of non-environmentally acceptable materials under the law.
Ramos said the local governments are sending a strong signal to the Commission to fulfill its almost two decades-long unperformed mandate to submit a list of banned items that are unsafe in production, use, post-consumer use, or that produce or release harmful by-products when discarded. If the production and trade of hundreds of millions of single use plastics are not banned, its management is the sole responsibility of the municipality or city.
“Had the Commission did its job 19 years ago and included single-use plastics, in particular, in the list, and update it yearly, we will not be facing this aggravating waste that is adding up to the already critical volume of plastic waste coming from the protective equipment of our health workers and frontliners. We recognize the foremost objective of saving lives,” Ramos said.
“However, the government can stop the continuous production of single-use plastics for other purposes and packaging to save our waterways, rivers and seas, and marine organisms that have become the dumping ground of humans’ unbridled consumption and utilization of plastics.”