Philippine green groups urge Duterte to immediately order ban on single-use plastic

September 29, 2021

Pro-environment groups in the country sent a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte this week to request for the immediate release of a list of “non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging,” and include single-use plastics.

In a letter sent to the Office of the President on September 29, the groups asked Duterte to order the National Solid Waste Management Commission to immediately ban single-use plastic through the release of the list.

“This mandate is two-decade long overdue and the commission only listed plastic soft drink straw and stirrer in February,” said the group in a statement released to the media on Wednesday.

The groups said the plastic pollution crisis in the country should be addressed “as urgently as COVID-19 response.”

“The longer we don’t ban single-use plastics, the worse it will get,” it added.

The groups recommended the following in the inclusion of “non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging” list:

  • plastic labo bags
  • plastic bags including oxo-degradable plastics
  • plastic cutleries: spoon, fork, and knives
  • plastic straws
  • plastic stirrers
  • plastic bottles
  • plastic cups and plates
  • thin plastic take-out containers
  • styrofoam or polystyrene food containers
  • sachet, packaging, or products that are multilayered with other materials

The groups reiterated that plastic is not just a waste management issue but a climate and health concern “that continues to worsen due to the pandemic.”

At least 95 local government units have already issued resolutions urging the National Solid Waste Management Commission to release the list and include single-use plastics.

In 2019, Duterte considered the ban on plastics during a discussion on climate change in his Cabinet.

Several bills aimed at combating plastic pollution are currently pending in Congress, including a proposal to ban single-use plastics, but none of the measures are close to becoming law.

The Philippines ranked third in the world for failing to deal with its plastics, according to a 2015 study by the University of Georgia, which said 81 percent of the country’s plastics waste was mismanaged.

Plastic waste has reached worrying proportions in the Philippines, which has the fifth longest coastline in the world, given the staggering amount of throw-away plastic used.

A recent study by environment group Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives showed that close to 60 billion pieces of sachets and 34 billion pieces of plastic bags are discarded in the Philippines yearly.

“Our oceans are already drowning in plastics. Our existing environmental laws are powerful, it is powerful enough to end the plastic crisis,” said Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of the group Oceana.

She noted, however, that the implementation “falls short” even as the commission that is tasked to implement the law is composed of 14 national government agencies.

“[The law] was passed 21 years ago but to date, not much has been done to address the perils of plastic pollution,” said Ramos.

“We are reaching out to the Office of the President as [Duterte’s] term comes to an end,” said Coleen Salamat of EcoWaste Coalition.

“To truly address the plastic and climate crisis, we have to stop it at source. We sincerely hope that the administration will follow through on this promise,” said Salamat.

Among those who signed the letter to the president are the EcoWaste Coalition, Break Free from Plastic, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Philippines, Health Care Without Harm South East Asia, Mother Earth Foundation, and Oceana Philippines.

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