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Nature cannot wait 

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos - CDN Digital | February 20,2020 - 07:28 AM

Local governments in Cebu and the rest of the country are hard-pressed to respond to the plastics pollution crisis which has long-term consequences to the health of the planet and the people.

The city of San Fernando of the province of Pampanga aims to be a Zero-Waste City and is rightfully considered the country’s model. It tries its best to comply with the provisions of R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, with a waste diversion rate of perhaps 85-90 percent. This means that it mainstreams the principles of waste avoidance and reduction, re-use, recycle and composting mandated by the law. However, it is challenged like any city, municipality and barangay on how to deal with plastics.

Senator Villar’s  pronouncement on February 18 that it is impossible to ban single-use plastics (SUPs) disappointed not a few. In fact it surprised many as only a few weeks back she was all for banning SUPs and was quoted to have said that “Plastics is one of the worst cause of destruction and pollution of our environment, and death of our marine resources. We know because in our cleanups, almost all the garbage we collect are plastic wastes.”

Is she falling for the industry’s argument that the lack of discipline among people is the cause for this crisis? 

The principal culprit is the continuing production of trillions of fossil fuel-based throw-away single-use plastics that one uses for a few minutes and which last for 500 years or more in this planet. Plastics are not biodegradable but are susceptible of being broken down into small pieces and remain in the planet for so long, way beyond any one’s lifetime.

If it is disastrous to our environment, and to the health of our inhabitants, especially if burned, why is it still allowed to be produced?

When-oh-when will this country’s decision-makers have the guts to do what is right to curb the growing public menace that has significantly contributed to the deaths of marine creatures, smothered  corals and  ingested by fish with its potential  impacts to our health? We need not mention of course SUPs’ dominance in our oceans, waterways and  in the prohibited open dumpsites.

Is there a solution to plastic pollution reduction in sight? Definitely – and it is mandated by R.A. 9003, the revolutionary  Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which espouses zero-waste approach to solid waste management.

It is high time that the National Solid Waste Management Commission (Commission) be compelled by President Duterte to release the list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging, known among environmental advocates as NEAP. 

The law defines ‘Environmentally Acceptable” to “refer to the quality of being re-usable, biodegradable or compostable, recyclable and not toxic or hazardous to the environment.” Easily, Single-use Plastics properly deserve to be labeled as   “environmentally non-acceptable.”

The Commission’s almost two decades’ delay and failure in listing NEAPs has effectively suspended the effectivity of the prohibited acts under Section 48 of R.A. 9003, specifically on the  manufacture, distribution or use of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials; and  (11) Importation of consumer products packaged in non-environmentally acceptable materials.

Let’s all pressure the Commission to integrate SUPs in the  NEAPs and release the much-awaited list soonest. Nature cannot wait. 

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