Environmentally unacceptable 7 gov’t execs charged over uncontrolled plastic waste
Environment

Environmentally unacceptable? 7 gov’t execs charged over uncontrolled plastic waste

Oct 28, 2021, 4:38 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

Plastic wastes have been killing marine resources, thereby reducing fish catch of fishermen prompting environmental advocates to ask the Supreme Court to issue a continuing mandamus and a writ of kalikasan, in a suit they filed against seven members of the Duterte Cabinet.

FOR procrastinating over the list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (Neapp) required under Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, seven Cabinet members are being sued before the Supreme Court by several environmental and youth activists, fisherfolk and a former lawmaker.

The environmental advocates are seeking a writ of kalikasan and a writ of continuing mandamus, citing “government negligence that had allowed the unabated emission of millions of tons of plastic waste into every nook and cranny of the Philippine archipelago.”

Ecological time bomb

A 2021 Oxford University study entitled “Our World in Data” cites the Philippines as accounting for a third of the 80 percent global ocean plastic coming from Asian rivers.

Plastic wastes have drowned coastal areas resulting in reduced catch for fishermen, who now haul more plastics than fish.

They asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to stop a “ticking ecological time bomb” by directing government to take a major step in curbing plastic pollution, which was supposed to have been done 20 years ago, to prevent an irreversible damage to the environment.

The writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy for persons or organizations whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is being violated.

The continuing mandamus would specifically compel the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), to list banned plastic products.

RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, mandates the NSWMC to prepare a list of Neapp within a year of the approval of the measure.

It has not published the Neapp since the passage of the law, which was authored by then Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, who is now one of the petitioners.

Respondents

Named respondents were Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña,

Also charged were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar (who has resigned to run for the Senate), Agriculture Secretary William Dar, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Benjamin Abalos Jr.

The petitioners also asked the high tribunal to issue a temporary environmental protection order to prohibit the manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of Neapp.

“After 20 years of thumb-twiddling, it has become abundantly clear that the respondents could not be bothered to avoid or diminish the threat of plastic pollution in line with the precautionary principle. Just as well, the future for the youth-petitioners who will be here long after older generations have passed remains bleak,” the petitioners said.

Existential threat

“To put an end to the runaway existential threat, the petitioners come seeking extraordinary relief so that their progeny—their generations yet unborn—may be given a fighting chance of being born at all into a world that is not drowning in plastic,” they said.

The petitioners asserted that the state must uphold its stewardship of the country’s ecology. The respondents’ inaction had caused direct injury due to plastic pollution like fishermen “catching less fish and more plastic” and constant and worsening floods, they said.

Finishing stage

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said that the implementing rules and regulations on the Neapp were being still finalized.

The environmental group Ecowaste Coalition has been demanding that the NSWMC and DENR act with more urgency.

It was the first to seek the immediate release of the Neapp list. Without the list, the prohibitions under RA 9003 cannot be imposed, particularly on manufacturers of plastic products.

“Had the respondents taken their mandate seriously, they would have, among other things, long ago prepared an effective list of Neapp and thereby enforced the statutory prohibition under the law,” according to the petition.

Largest contributor

World plastic emission is over 300,000 metric tons of plastic wastes/year.

Several studies have already singled out the Philippines as the largest contributor to plastic emissions in the world, emitting over 356,371 metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste annually.

A 2015 report by international group Ocean Conservancy said the Philippines produces 2.7 million metric tons of plastic waste annually and was the third biggest marine plastic polluter in the world.

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives reported in a 2019 study that the country disposes off 163 million plastic sachets and 45.2 million pieces of thin-film plastic bags daily.

Brand audit

A 2020 Philippine brand audit by the environmental group Break Free from Plastic (BFFP) showed that eight major companies engaged in manufacturing food, beverage, and personal care products have been the top plastics polluters in the country in the previous three years.

The group’s analysis showed that majority of plastic trash collected in 2020 was from products by Universal Robina Corp., Nestlé, and Colgate-Palmolive.

The 2020 audit covered 38,580 pieces of branded plastic waste items recovered from 17 sites, BFFP said.

In August this year, Nestlé Philippines reported the completion of its first year of “plastic neutrality” by collecting, co-processing and diverting from the environment over 27,000 metric tons of plastic waste.

This amount is slightly more than the plastic packaging that it had put out in the market over the past year.

Pasig River

The Pasig River alone provides up to 6.43 percent of ocean plastic originating from rivers, the report said.

The government’s own figures recognize that plastic waste accounts for 10.6 percent of all solid waste in the country and that it is set to “increase indefinitely.” Much of this is single-use plastics such as sachets and shopping bags.

These then flow into 4,280 rivers and into the ocean, where it has “exposed an uncountable number of humans and wildlife to hazards that will last for up to thousands of years in the environment,” the petitioners warned.

Alexandra Cousteau, an adviser to Oceana Philippines international, one of the petitioners, said that fears of ingesting plastics are “very real.”

“We now have micro plastics not only polluting the ocean but falling from the sky in raindrops,” she said.

Oceana is the largest international organization advocating for ocean conservation.

Tags: #Cabinetmemberssued, #environmentalandyouthadvocates, #plasticwastes, #environment


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