Puerto Princesa barangays blame plastics for garbage woes

“Plastics are to blame!”

All fingers point to plastics as one of the root causes of Puerto Princesa’s growing garbage problem, during last week’s barangay solid waste management planning for five (5) barangays in the sole city of the province of Palawan.

Barangays Bancao-bancao; Bacungan; San Jose; Salvacion; and Irawan spent one day each from 29 July to 2 August last week to come up with separate action plans to deal with their separate garbage issues.

“Plastics, specifically single-use (SUPs) and disposable ones, such as sando bags and styros, are major culprits; they are everywhere and it appears there is no way to deal with them ecologically,” sighed Hon.  Gina Valdestamon, Barangay Bacungan Chairwoman.

Barangays Bacungan and San Jose ranked SUPs 3rd among their top 5 root causes of the barangays’ waste issues, while Barangays Salvacion and Irawan placed the same 4th. In Barangay Bancao-bancao, the participants pointed out SUPs among a host of other main waste culprits although the same did not make it into the barangay’s top 5 list.

Organizer of the activities, Bonifacio Tobias, Project Manager for Candis 3 Marketing Cooperative’s (C3MC) project on Mitigating Threats to Marine Protected Areas through Reducing and Recycling Solid Waste Materials, pointed out that “plastics, and the toxins that they have, are a marine menace, polluting the sea and killing marine animals in various ways, such as by strangling or by being mistaken as food by sea creatures.”

“Plastics get into the ocean either through direct dumping or from run-off mostly from household as well as from tourism activities,” Tobias added.

During the planning sessions, which were facilitated by EcoWaste Coalition’s Zero Waste Program Officer, Jovito “Jove” Benosa, and Zero Waste Campaigner Rey Palacio, the barangay participants saw the need to “turn the faucet off”, so to speak, by banning the use of stubborn SUPs and disposables in their barangays to truly deal with the issue of waste.

Puerto Princesa, very recently, has issued an ordinance banning certain SUPs and disposables all throughout the city.

The City’s Ordinance No. 993, titled “The Puerto Princesa City Single Use Plastic and Styrofoam Regulation Ordinance of 2019”, approved on March 06 of this year, prohibits the use of plastics as defined in Section 4 of the ordinance; the use of single-use plastic bags as secondary packaging; and the use of Styrofoam containers as primary packaging material, among others.

The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act 9003 provides in Sections 29, 30 and 48 for the prohibition on the manufacture and use of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging.

“Environmentally-acceptable”, according to R.A. 9003, “shall refer to the quality of being re-usable, biodegradable or compostable, recyclable and not toxic or hazardous to the environment” (Section 3, paragraph (m)).

“We make waste everyday, but our land is not expanding; there will come a time when Puerto Princesa will be completely covered with waste if we don’t stop creating them!” exclaimed Palacio during the planning sessions.

 “With the law’s waste diversion mandate as provided in Section 20 of R.A. 9003, there is no other way for residual plastics to go but to be phased out. These stubborn materials resist ecological management and therefore can in no way be truly diverted from ending up in disposal facilities, unless their manufacture is put to a full stop,” concluded Benosa.