Supporting Manila’s Plastic Bag Ban, Groups Demand a National Legislation Against Plastic Bags

03 July 2013, Manila City. Enact a nationwide ban on plastic bags now!

This was the collective statement made by more than 500 students, school officials, parent-teacher officers, beauty queens, environmentalists and supporters from the national and local government who gathered today at Jose P. Laurel High School in Tondo Manila, to mark the 4th International Plastic Bag-Free Day.

Bearing reusable bags, bayongs, banners and placards calling, among others, for a nationwide ban and subsequent phase out of plastic bags, members of the EcoWaste Coalition led the group in marching along the vicinity of J. P. Laurel High School to hammer home their urgent message for the national government to act decisively against the use, sale and distribution of plastic bags.

The timely activity drew support from the city government of Manila headed by President Mayor Joseph Estrada as part of his administration’s environmental agenda to combat climate change.

In his speech delivered last Sunday as he took his oath as Mayor of Manila, Estrada promised to “start cleaning our waterways to mitigate flooding; we will do this in line with a clear climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction mitigation program,” as he reminded Manileños that, “we must learn our lessons from last year,” citing the city’s notorious flooding problem exacerbated by monsoon rains or Habagat.

Meanwhile, the group supports the looming citywide ban on plastic bags and polystyrene containers that will take effect starting September 2013 in Manila.

Manila City Ordinance 8282, once implemented, will ban the use of plastic bags for dry goods and regulate their use for wet goods, and altogether bans polystyrene (Styrofoam) as container for food, produce and other products.

According to Councilor Numero Lim, one of the decree’s sponsors, “the ordinance will also prohibit business establishments from offering, selling, or using plastic bags as primary or secondary packaging for dry goods, and forbids barangay collection of discarded plastics unless these are pre-cleaned and dried.”

“It’s about time that the city of Manila enforces bans on the distribution and use of plastic bags to stop the nonchalant disposal of these materials and protect what remains of our environment,” Coun. Lim added.

In 2006, 2010, and 2011, waste audits conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Mother Earth Foundation and other eco-groups revealed plastic products – led by plastic bags – as the highest garbage contributor in terms of volume in Manila Bay and Laguna Lake.

Discards survey conducted by the same group in 2006 and 2010 showed plastic bags comprising 51.4 and 27.7 percent, respectively, of the detritus in Manila Bay.

As of today, the group counted at least 90 LGUs all over the country that have similar ordinances in place banning or regulating plastic bags, with several localities following suit before the end of the year.

“Plastic bags are the embodiment of an antiquated, throw-away mentality that we need to urgently address. Through our action today, we ask the national government to enact laws and policies that will reinforce the initiatives of visionary LGUs and eventually wean us from plastic bags,” stated Sonia Mendoza of the Mother Earth Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force Head on Plastics.

“By outlawing the use of plastic bags and other non-ecologically sound packaging materials, we substantially reduce our waste generation, thereby, cutting waste management costs, and lessen related environmental risks such as flooding and marine pollution from happening as plastic bags usually end up littering the streets and dumpsites, at the same time, polluting our waterways such as rivers and seas,” she said.

Mendoza articulated that “recycling plastic bags does not necessarily reduce wastes as it just manages the plastic bags that have already been created.”

“Recycled plastics still make its way back to the consumers’ buy-use-dispose loop, thus, adding more plastics in the environment. What we need to do is to avoid its usage in the first place,” Mendoza suggested.

The group added that banning the use of plastic bags will help boost the demand for locally-made bayongs and cloth bags, which supports local cottage industries, thereby creating more employment and business opportunities in both urban and rural areas as raw materials for these products are readily available all over the country. It is now a good time for LGUs and businesses to support and invest in the production of bayongs and cloth bags.

Wearing tiaras made from mini-bayongs with slogans signifying their aversion against plastic bags, Miss Philippines Earth 2013 Angelee Claudett delos Reyes led beauty titlists Kimverlyn Suiza (Miss Philippines Air 2013), Nancy Leonard (Miss Philippines Water 2013), Alma Cabasal (Miss Philippines Fire 2013) and Bernadette Mae Aguirre (Miss Philippines Eco-Tourism 2013) in advocating the use of plastic bag alternatives such as baskets, bayongs and katsa bags.

For her part, Miss Philippines Earth 2013 Angelee Claudett delos Reyes noted that “already we are awash with sad news of clogging and flooding just as the rainy season begun, and this should compel our national government to address the unrestricted use and disposal of plastic bags that haunt us year after year after year.”

Comprehensively, a nationwide plastic bag ban is both a climate change mitigation measure and a disaster risk reduction response as it intends ultimate phase out of all kinds of plastic bags, eases discards collection mechanisms and recycling, and supports LGUs in their waste management schemes as mandated by R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Participating groups of the 4th International Plastic Bag-Free Day include the EcoWaste Coalition, Ban Toxics, Cavite Green Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, MALAYA, Manila Federation of PTA, Miss Earth Foundation, and Mother Earth Foundation.

Senator Cynthia Villar sent representatives to the event.

Local government officials and representatives who participated in the event include District II Councilor Numero Lim, local barangay officials and a representative of DepEd-Manila Superintendent Dr. Ponciano Menguito.