Environmental groups to SC: Compel gov’t to act on pollution caused by plastic wastes

Published October 27, 2021, 5:49 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court (SC) was asked on Wednesday, Oct. 27, to compel the government to address swiftly and effectively the unabated pollution and dangers to people’s health due to the dumping of millions of tons of plastic wastes.

In a petition for a Writ of Kalikasan filed by environmental organizations led by Oceana Philippines, fisherfolk, lawmakers, former Sen. Sergio Osmena III, and scientist Deo Florence Onda, the SC was asked to issue a temporary environment protection order (TEPO) pending resolution of the case.

They said the TEPO should cover the non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAPP) such as disposable plastics, plastic products that contain bisphenol A and other known endocrine disrupting chemicals, plastics that have “persistent organic pollutants,” plastics that are not re-usable, not biodegradable or compostable, and plastics that are toxic or hazardous to the environment

A Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy for the protection of one’s right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” under Section 16, Article II of the Constitution.

The petitioners told the SC: “The continued disregard of the Respondents’ mandate under Republic Act No. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) will continue to aggravate the widespread environmental damage already caused by the proliferation of plastic to the natural life support system that we all depend on for survival. Worse, the lives and health of every Filipino now existing and yet unborn is continuously prejudiced by the Respondents’ refusal to implement their mandate.”

Among those named as respondents were Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, acting Public Works Secretary Roger Mercado, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Agriculture Secretary William Dar.

The petitioners said the government has failed for years to provide clear policies to implement the Constitution and Republic Act No. 9003.

They also said the government has violated its obligations under international treaties including the London Protocol, Stockholm Convention, and Paris Agreement.

They cited a study released early this year which singled out the Philippines as the largest contributor to plastic emissions in the world with 356,371 metric tons of mismanaged plastic wastes per year. The plastic wastes, the study showed, go into the rivers and unto the ocean.

“For twenty long years, the Respondents steadfastly refused to prepare the list of non-environmentally acceptable products under Section 29 of RA No. 9003. In doing so, they allowed plastic pollution to proliferate,” they said.

Section 29 of RA 9003 states that the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) under the Office of the President should come out with a list of NEAPP after the passage of the law in 2000.

They lamented that the law, particularly Section 29, remains unimplemented.

They also told the SC: “By refusing to issue any list, the respondents defeated the policy of RA 9003 towards ‘solid waste avoidance and volume reduction through source reduction and waste minimization measures.’ The respondents flouted their mandate not just once but continuously over the course of 20 years.”

With the government’s inaction, the petitioners said 164 million sachets, 48 million shopping bags, and 45.2 million plastic ‘labo’ are dumped daily.

“Every second that the Respondents continue to allow the defilement of our natural resources and the very environment we all depend on for life, only the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of cheap plastic products stand to profit ─ at the expense of the health, lives, and future of everyone else,” they stressed.

The SC will resume sessions on Nov. 9 after its three-week decision-writing period.