Resolving the plastics crisis

 

 

By Rose de la Cruz

 

The plastics crisis has gripped not just the Philippines, but the entire planet as well and all life forms (in the seas, air and land) are being threatened to extinction by plastics waste.

 

President Duterte has resolved to bank plastics, which is being strongly supported by Congress, including three of his opponents in the Nationalista Party.

 

Yet between the passage of the law, and its enforcement lies a big difference in the approach to remove plastics without forcing manufacturers to stop using plastics or infusing a small part of plastics into their finished products.

 

Attacking the problem through the endusers (consumers) of these plastics or plastic-made products is an exercise in futility, and so with dealing with the scourge on its environmental impact.

 

The first line of offense must be on the manufacturers of goods and services that patronize plastics and the producers of plastics themselves. But then again, what is the alternative packaging in sight? Paper bags or carton boxes (which not only causes a surge in illegal logging as paper comes from the trees. But it can also choke the seabed or riverbed over time).

 

So far, three congressmen Reps. Frederick Siao (Iligan City), Alexie Tutor (Bohol, 3rd district) and Lawrence Fortun (Agusan del Norte, 1st district) have filed sensible but undoable bills in the lower chamber.

 

"There are at least 25 proposed bills and resolutions on plastics now pending in the House and about seven in the Senate,” said Fortun, author of House Bill 103. He said he had been pushing for laws against unregulated plastics dumping since the 16th Congress.

 

HB 103 seeks to regulate the production, importation, sale, provision, use, recovery, collection, recycling, and disposal of plastic products. The measure seeks to ban all single-use plastics.

 

"One difference of our version,  HB 103,  is it includes under Section 16,  a mechanism for vigilant citizens to file a 'citizen's suit' against persons, companies or entities that violate the country's laws on plastics regulation," said Fortun, a member of the House Committee on Ecology.

 

Siao said his proposed Pera sa Basura Act (HB 5048) "is one of the most comprehensive bills that can achieve what President Duterte wants as regards eliminating plastic waste by letting private corporations and government-owned or controlled corporations establish special purpose corporations or joint ventures with the specific mission of redeeming and recovering plastic wastes.”

 

Tutor filed HB 4724 banning single-use plastics from all tourist sites and destinations. "With this bill, we want all tourists to be aware that they are most welcome but their single-use plastics like water bottles, spoons, forks, straws, and stirrers are not."

 

Tutor said, “this is also a step towards a nationwide ban on the use of single-use plastics. In House Bill 4724, we are focused on tourism areas...The signages about the plastics ban should be present at the transport hubs, including airports and bus terminals. Plastics manufacturers will have to adjust to the new business rules. Tourism businesses must find alternatives to single-use plastics."

 

"For deterrence purposes, HB 4724 has stiff fines and other penalties to force and remind people not to bring single-use plastics to the beaches, hiking trails, mountains, and other places tourists go to," Tutor said.

 Fortun’s citizen suit provision empowers every Filipino to hold violators accountable. Section 16 serves as a strong deterrent to violations and possible violators would rather abide by the law knowing that the public can run after them. Mas gugustuhin pa nilang sundin na lang ang batas at gawin ang tama," he pointed out.

 

Fortun noted that the Philippines has been tagged as the world's third biggest polluter of the seas and more notoriously, the number one in Southeast Asia.

 

 

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