Friday, October 22, 2010

Mindfully Greenie - Stop the plastic scourge

A week ago, I decided to walk from the church to the corner of a
street. The kilometer-or-so hike turned out to be another first-hand
learning experience about human’s irresponsible treatment of our
planet. I mindfully took note of the litters that the “toss-and-throw”
populace did, which are potential cause of floods and ailments, not to
mention species and habitat destruction.

Frankly, I did not plan the “instant” observation trip. To lessen the
anxiety seeing two or three dogs roaming around which, I am sure, did
not have anti-rabies vaccination, I decided to entertain my mind – by
staying focused on the trash.

There were all sorts of debris every two steps that I took. I still
vividly remember the flattened Marlboro and Winston cigarette packs
and softdrink aluminum cans, cigarette butts, “chichirias” and candy
wrappers, empty caps and lids. But, piece by piece, nothing could beat
the waste champion - the perilous plastic bags that came in different
sizes, colors and thickness. Others had the names of stores emblazoned
on them.

Knowing how hazardous and risky plastic bags can be, it is definitely
not a badge of honor now for the establishment owners and operators to
see their plastics filling the illegal open dumpsites and flood-prone
streets. Putting the “recycle” symbol or the once-a-week no-plastic
bag campaign are inadequate to respond to the serious problems caused
by plastics. In the midst of the lethargy of government, we, however,
salute the initiatives of the Philippine Retailers Association and
establishments in coming up with the program.

It is likewise encouraging that local government units are starting to
craft ordinances regulating plastic bags usage. Mandaue City had their
plastic bag ordinance published. Muntinlupa is banning the use of
plastic bags by January 2011.

Even DENR Secretary Paje, who is the National Solid Waste Management
Commission (NSWMC) Chair, took a strong stand against littering a week
ago. Same with the NSWMC OIC Executive Director Emelita Aguinaldo who
“lauded Sen. Manuel Villar's Senate Bill 1103 and Sen. Miriam
Defensor-Santiago's Senate Bill 1543. SB 1103 seeks to promote sound
waste management by requiring all department stores, malls and
commercial establishments to utilize reusable environment-friendly
shopping bags and provide them free of charge to customers and
patrons. SB 1543, on the other hand, seeks to regulate the use of
plastic grocery bags (

However, the initiatives to regulate plastic bags need not be taken by
the private sector, the local government units or even by Congress. RA
9003 IS ADEQUATE TO SOLVE OUR GARBAGE WOES – if only government
agencies mandated by the law perform their responsibilities, in
partnership with stakeholders. If seriously implemented, the law, R.A.
9003, which became effective in 2001, would have solved our garbage

It should likewise be mentioned that IF ONLY a specific government
agency under the Office of the President chose not to play
coy-and-innocent on its role in the proliferation of plastic bags in
this mega-diversity rich but oh-so-vulnerable nation, we would have
been one of the first countries to regulate the same.

Not even the fury unleashed by Ondoy, where mountains of garbage piled
up in Metro Manila for all to see, can make this agency move and
perform one of its crucial functions. Not even the Notice to Sue sent
to them by the environmental crusaders last year can make the
officials call for a public hearing and come up with the list of
non-environmentally acceptable products, or NEAP.

This year, Eco-waste Coalition also “specifically urged the NSWMC to
prioritize the adoption of long-delayed policy that will curb
pollution from plastic bags and other non-environmentally acceptable
products and packaging

R.A. 9003 directs this agency, the NSWMC to “formulate and update a
list of non-environmentally acceptable materials”, after public notice
and hearing, within one (1) year from the effectivity of the law.
Until now, NSWMC has stubbornly refused to do so.

By its defiance of the law, section 30 on the prohibition on the use
of Non-Environmentally Acceptable Packaging and section 48 (10 and
11), of R.A. 9003 on the prohibited acts on the use of NEAP and penal
sanctions, are rendered empty, meaningless and inutile.

Who are the members of NSWMC? There are several agencies involved,
including the DENR, DTI,DILG, the Ligas of the barangays,
municipalities, cities, provinces and NGOs.

Why the obstinate failure of the NSWMC to perform this ministerial
function? Only NSWMC officials and members can answer this question.
Only President Aquino and two institutions can, in fact, make the
officials tell the truth: Congress, in the exercise of its oversight
functions, and the Supreme Court, should a petition for a writ of
continuing mandamus be filed by citizens and the former finds the same

In the meantime, while we, and our environment, are held hostage by
the executive agencies’ utter failure to implement R.A. 9003, PLASTICS
ABSTINENCE is a good habit to maintain. In addition, the following
tips can be of help in reducing the plastic scourge:

1. Bring your own reusable bag, bayong or container.

2. Grow or buy organic vegetables (without plastic packs) and plant
fruit trees in your backyard.

2. Be involved in the information campaign to change behavior and for
people to be more aware of their responsibilities.

3. Monitor the level of performance of the barangays, municipalities
and cities, like what law students from the University of Cebu College
of Law did. They visited ten barangays in Cebu City and, as expected,
only Bo. Luz substantially complied with the requirements of the law.

4. Claim your rights to life, health and a healthful and balanced
ecology against non-performing LGU and DENR officials. By not
complying with R.A. 9003, officials of government agencies should be
held accountable.

5. Never give up – just decide to do your share and act accordingly.

Remember what Margaret Meade said: “Never doubt that a small group of
thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the
only thing that ever has.”

You can make a difference – go for it. Say No to Plastic.


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