Green Advocates Clamor for a National Law against Plastic Bags to Help Address Marine Plastic Pollution

Manila City.
Save our seas, legislate a nationwide ban on plastic bags now!

This was the collective statement made by hundreds of volunteers from various
waste picker groups, civil society organizations, universities, as well as
officials of several national agencies and local government units who flocked
to Roxas Boulevard to collect and segregate garbage from mostly assorted
plastic products polluting Manila Bay.

The Manila Bay waste audit led by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for
Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, and Mother Earth Foundation marks the 5th
International Plastic Bag-Free Day, and is a follow up to their 2006 and 2010
discards survey in the heavily-polluted body of water.

A team of participants, Dianne Querrer (Miss Philippines Air 2014), Monique
Manuel (Miss Philippines Eco-Tourism 2014) and Bencelle Bianzon (Miss
Philippines Earth 2014 Runner Up) scoured the perimeter of Manila Bay
stretching from the Manila Yacht Club to the US Embassy for litters washed
ashore, while another team rode aboard boats and collected offshore flotsam
from the Yacht Club to Baseco Compound.

“Based on our initial observations today, plastic discards, especially plastic
bags and polystyrene products continue to be the number one solid waste
pollutants of Manila Bay, underlining our common knowledge that plastics is a
problem and that our tendency to patronize single-use plastic products
magnifies this problem,” stated Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth
Foundation and Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Waste audits in 2006 and 2010 conducted by the same group and other
environmental organizations disclosed that, among plastic products, plastic
bags were the main garbage contributor in terms of volume, comprising 51.4 and
27.7 percent, respectively, of the debris in Manila Bay.

“Seeing the enormous volumes of plastic bags during today’s discards survey in
Manila Bay, we demand from the national government a Philippine-wide plastic
ban that will support growing efforts of local government units in addressing
plastic pollution in the country,” emphasized Mendoza.

“Doing so will significantly lessen our waste generation, trim down waste
management costs, and minimize correlated environmental threats such as
flooding and marine pollution,” she added.

The groups expressed gratitude to more than a hundred LGUs all over the country
who have already adopted policies phasing out or regulating plastic bags in
their jurisdictions, with more localities planning to follow suit.

Expressing her complete support for the groups’ efforts, Ang NARS Party-List
Congresswoman Leah Paquiz pointed out “the need for a national law that will
enhance waste reduction by outlawing the use of plastic bags and promoting
reusable bags from natural fibers.”

“Such a law will also bolster the clean-up of Manila Bay, as well as other
bodies of water in the country,” Cong. Paquiz added.

In 2008, the Supreme Court issued a Writ of Continuing Mandamus instructing
various national government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve
Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters to class “B” level to make the
bay fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.
However, despite the order to rehabilitate it, the water quality in Manila Bay
remains in poor condition, way below accepted health standards.

Last December 2013, Rep. Paquiz filed House Bill 3511, an act that will
“regulate the production, importation, sale, use, recycling, and disposition of
plastic bags, promote the use of native reusable bags, and provide a mechanism
for the recovery and collection of plastic bags.”

In her bill’s explanatory note, Rep. Paquiz clarified that “being part of the
daily lives of people in our consumer-driven society, plastic bags, wrappers
and other similar forms of packaging eventually become part of the ecosystem as
floating trash in our waters.”

“Globally, the international community has long known the harmful effects and
impacts of the improper and unregulated use of plastic bags, despite the
absence of a global treaty or framework on the matter,” said Rep. Paquiz.

A recent UNEP study entitled “Valuing Plastic” estimates 10 to 20 million tons
of plastic finding its way into the world’s oceans each year, causing
approximately USD 13 billion worth of environmental damage to marine

In a consequent statement released last month, UNEP Executive Director Achim
Steiner said that “plastics have come to play a crucial role in modern life,
but the environmental impacts of the way we use them cannot be ignored,”
explaining that “the key course of action is to prevent plastic debris from
entering the environment in the first place, which translates into a single
powerful objective: reduce, reuse, recycle.”

The activity also drew support from the offices of Sen. Cynthia Villar; Hon.
Amado Bagatsing, Chairman of the Committee on Ecology, House of
Representatives; Hon. Numero Lim, City Councilor of Manila’s 2nd District; Hon.
Felibus Papa, Jr. and Hon. Jaime Adriano, Brgy. Captains of Manila’s Barangay
701 and 719, respectively.

Participants of the 5th International Plastic Bag-Free Day activity include Ang
NARS Party-List, Ban Toxics, City Government of Manila, De La Salle
University—Dasmariñas, Earth Island Institute, EcoWaste Coalition, Global
Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Gulayan Pilapil Neighborhood
Association, Inc., Health Care Without Harm, Miriam PEACE, Miss Earth
Foundation, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Coast Guard, Samahan ng Muling
Pagkabuhay—Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Save Freedom Island, Save the Bay
Movement,  and the University of Sto. Tomas.

Internationally, countries like France, Spain, Estonia, India, Nepal,
Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hongkong, China, and Australia are
also taking part in the event.