Perilous plastic

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos June 13,2019 - 06:42 AM

“To be honest, as a dad, it’s tough trying to explain this to my kids. How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches around the world, their stomachs jam-packed with plastic bags?” 

This dad is no ordinary dad. He is Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He is referring to the plastic waste, which has put our only home planet in peril. It is creating havoc for sea and land creatures and causes pollution everywhere. Studies are indicating that it has permeated the food chain. Microplastics has become part of the diet of fish, shellfish, and birds, as well as humans.

On June 11, Canada announced it will ban single-use plastics by early 2021. 

The 2018 research on Plastic Waste in Aquatic Environment points out that almost 280 million tons of plastic materials are produced yearly in the world, which with landfills or the oceans as final disposal site. “It affects at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species, and 43% of all marine mammal species. Marine animals are harmed mostly through ingestion, entanglement and subsequently strangulation. Ingested plastics debris has been found to reduce stomach capacity, hinder growth, cause internal injuries and create intestinal blockage.”

Oceana puts it vividly: “An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic leaks into the marine environment from land-based sources every year—this is roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the oceans every minute.”

Countries with weak environment management system such as the Philippines certainly become a favorite dumping ground for plastic and other waste materials.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Cimatu has called on local government units to implement environmental laws and specifically mentioned Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. Barangays are in charge of the management of recyclable and biodegradable waste materials while municipalities and cities are responsible for non-recyclable and non-biodegradable materials including hazardous household wastes.

But, it is not that simple. RA 9003 requires vigorous inter-agency coordination and multi-stakeholder planning and collaboration.  It also prohibits the manufacture, distribution or use of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials and importation of consumer products packaged in non-environmentally acceptable materials.

But, alas, 18 years after the law was enacted, the National Solid Waste Management Commission, under the Office of the President, despite being clearly mandated by said law to come up with the list of Non-environmentally Acceptable Products and Packaging (NEAP), still has to do its job. 

With the NEAP list, which should include single-use plastic, the sources of plastic production will be reduced, if not eliminated. That should make a big difference in fighting plastic pollution in this megadiversity and top fish-producing country of ours.

Take note: RA 9003 is powerful, if asserted by citizenry, as it mainstreams accountability for those tasked to implement it, just like the Clean Air Act and the Fisheries Code, as amended. The law has integrated citizen and anti-harassment suits. Any takers?

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