Aside from promoting measures to thwart the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as well as control traffic congestion, an environmental group urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to also step up its advocacy for reusable bags as the country holds its first-ever "Philippine Shopping Festival" next month.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit green group working for a zero waste and toxics-free society, called upon Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat to optimize the shopping campaign not only to boost tourism, but also to encourage consumers and retailers to ditch the wasteful plastic bag habit.
“In line with the government’s thrust toward sustainable tourism, we urge Secretary Puyat to highlight the use of reusable bags in the month-long retail event that will be participated in by shopping malls across the country,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
Puyat had previously stated that “in developing our tourism industry, we must strike a balance between economic opportunities and social responsibilities,” stressing “we must ensure that any development in the tourism industry must not be undertaken at the expense of the environment, the tourists, and the host communities.”
“With the well-being of Mother Nature in mind, the department’s promotional campaign should give due emphasis to the environmental benefits of reusable bags that will encourage more shoppers, locals and foreigners, into proudly bringing their own bags whenever they shop,” Benosa said.
“Instead of single-use plastic bags or paper bags, consumers should be reminded and rewarded for carrying reusable bags with them. This will help in reducing the environmental and climate impact of single-use bags, particularly the myriad of problems associated with their unrestrained production, consumption and disposal,” he said.
“The use of bayong and other hand-woven bags made of native materials such as palm, pandan and water hyacinth, as well as DIY (do it yourself) tote bags from old clothes, katsa and fabric scraps, should be actively promoted and supported,” he suggested.
"DOT's promotion of bayong and other reusable bags will also help local government units (LGUs) as this will translate to decreased volume of plastic use and waste," said Benosa, noting that over 500 LGUs have so far adopted ordinances banning or regulating plastic bags to minimize their garbage woes.
As shopping malls are also popular for dining, the EcoWaste Coalition further urged the DOT to use the nationwide sale to encourage a shift from disposables to reusables by restaurants, food courts, and other food and beverage vendors.
“Apart from urging retailers and consumers to embrace the use of reusable bags, we hope the DOT will also amplify the call for food business to rethink disposable and phase in reusable foodware substitutes, for tourists to bring their own water bottles, and for everyone to take responsibility for their discards,” Benosa said, noting the perennial problem with littering in tourism spots and events.