Sec. Atienza Urged to Sign Policy Banning Single Use Plastic Bags

Quezon City. Two environmental organizations today urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to back a resolution by the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) that seeks to save the oceans from plastic pollution.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, and the Conserve and Protect Oceans Foundation (CAPOceans), a marine rehabilitation and protection group, jointly pleaded for the passage of a policy resolution banning thin film single use plastic bags.

Resolution No. 30, Series of 2009, if signed by DENR Sec. and NSWMC Chair Jose Atienza, Jr., will ban the manufacture, sale, distribution and use of thin film single use plastic bags, one of the most littered garbage that is stifling marine animals and defacing coastal areas across the globe.

The resolution stems from the citizens’ petition presented to the DENR and the NSWMC last June 16 by the EcoWaste Coalition and over 100 groups urging the authorities to heed the call by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to phase out or ban “thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life.”

According to the draft resolution, “there is a need to phase out and ban the production of thin film single use plastic bags due to its rampant littering to oceans, beaches and other water bodies, which acutely endanger the marine ecosystems and the lives of the communities that depend on marine resources.”

However, DENR Asst. Sec. and NSWMC Executive Director Gerardo Calderon, in a letter faxed to the EcoWaste Coalition on July 28, explained that the approval of the said resolution has to be deferred “to further assess the necessity and its implications on the plastic industry.”

“We urge Sec. Atienza to uphold the public interest and back the policy resolution that could dramatically reduce the huge quantities of plastic discards being disposed in dumpsites and in water bodies. Let the ban on plastic bags be his legacy as environmental chief,” said “balik-bayong” advocate Roy Alvarez of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The policy, if genuinely enforced, may even lead to a trailblazing shift to clean production and to ecologically-sound consumption values and choices,” he added.

CAPOceans, which is based out of Calatagan, Batangas, expressed hope that Sec. Atienza will act swiftly on the pending policy on plastic bags as this will protect the aquatic wildlife.

“We hope that Sec. Atienza will see the policy as an essential tool to stop the destructive disposal at sea or on open land of discarded plastic bags and other garbage. No coral reef, no sea turtle, no dolphin is disposable. We all need to take action to protect the marine ecosystems from plastic pollution,” said Jessie de los Reyes, Project Coordinator, CAPOceans.

The petition to ban plastic bags following the call by Dr. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, has attracted broad support from concerned local groups and individuals.

Among the more than 100 petitioners who have joined the EcoWaste Coalition in asking the DENR and the NSWMC to ban plastic bags were “non-trapo” presidential candidates Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, John Carlos de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran Party) and Nicanor Perlas (recipient of “Right Livelihood Award”), senatorial aspirant Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel (Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party), Danton Remoto (Ang Ladlad Party) and Manila Councilor Numero “Uno” Lim (author of a proposed city ordinance on plastic bags).

Atty. Alex Lacson (author of bestseller “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country”), film actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr., several priests and faith-based ecology ministries also signed the petition.