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Negros Oriental Implements 'Ban' Prohibiting Use Of Plastic Bags

By: Francis Lianro Bulado

From the containers we eat while sitting in a nice chair to the facial creams and toothbrushes we use, plastic is surely everywhere to make our lives simpler. However, as humans become increasingly reliant on plastics, more of the environment is at stake due to how it is handled and disposed of, which has a ton of significantly negative environmental impacts.

Plastic pollution as one of the major environmental problems in the Philippines | © Eco Warrior Princess
Plastic pollution as one of the major environmental problems in the Philippines | © Eco Warrior Princess

Plastic pollution has been one of the most important environmental challenges, posing a threat to the lives of wildlife such as birds and marine species, as well as the overall well-being of our biodiversity, since plastic is known as one of the world's greatest pollutants. More methane and ethylene will be produced as a result of the breakdown of these plastic materials called polymers, speeding up the rate of climate change. Globally, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic trash ended up in the ocean.

According to the World Bank Organization, the Philippines ranked as the third-largest contributor of mismanaged plastic that enters the ocean every year, accounting for 0.75 million metric tons.

Environmental activists frequently challenge those in charge of the government as they play a significant role in resolving the plastic pollution crisis by demonstrating a willingness to turn radical ideas into attainable objectives and establish sanctions and budgets to mitigate the harmful effects of plastic pollution on the environment.

Dumpsite in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental that almost covers the entire road in Barangay Candau-ay
Dumpsite in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental that almost covers the entire road in Barangay Candau-ay

Furthermore, Philippine government actions towards the environment are governed by the provision in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, specifically in Article II, Section 16, which states:

"The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology in accord and with the rhythm and harmony of nature"

As a result, the Philippine Local Government Code of 1991 mandates the respective Local Government Units to share with the National Government the responsibility to promote, manage and maintain ecological balance in our respective locality. The same law also stipulates that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or the Provincial Board may also enact laws to safeguard the environment and impose appropriate fines for actions that potentially cause pollution.

The Negros Times team in Dumaguete City was able to secure a copy of Provincial Ordinance No. 28, which regulates the use of plastic in the entire province, that was signed and approved by the incumbent Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo last August 12, 2021.

The Ordinance No. 28 (series of 2021), also known as "The Plastic Regulation and Prohibition Ordinance," was authored by Hon. John T. Raymond, Jr, from the province's third district. The goal of the ordinance is to regulate the use of plastics by designating Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as Plastic Holidays which prohibits the use of single-use plastic bags for primary and secondary packaging; it also designates the rest of the week, specifically Monday to Thursday, as Non-Plastic Holidays, with businesses and vendors only permitted to sell reusable plastic bags if absolutely necessary.

Other prohibited acts are: no free paper bags to encourage consumers to bring their own eco-bags; the use of cellophane in packaging drinking water and soft drinks; the use and sell of any types of plastic bags; the use and sell of styrofoam; distribution of single-use plastic straws; balikbayans or returning Filipinos and tourists bringing in plastic bags; serving/selling 500 ml. or smaller bottles of beverages.

Violators of the ordinance will be fined with the following penalties:

First Offense:

A fine of P300.00 for individuals; P500.00 for ambulant, occasional, and tabo vendors; and P1000.00 for permanent business establishments. Violators are subject to compulsory attendance to an orientation about the ordinance. Refusal to attend means resistance to the ordinance, which shall be penalized twice.

Second Offense:

A fine of P500.00 for individuals; P1000.00 for ambulant, occasional, and tabo vendors; and P2000.00 for permanent business establishments.

Third Offense:

A fine of P1000.00 for individuals; P2000.00 for ambulant, occasional, and tabo vendors; and P3000.00 for permanent business establishments.

Fourth Offense:

A fine of P2000.00 for individuals; P3000.00 for ambulant, occasional, and tabo vendors; and P5000.00 for permanent business establishments.

The one-year grace period following the ordinance's effective date was implemented as an adjustment period that will elapse until later this year, during which no violators will be fined. The Plastic Regulation and Prohibition Ordinance is a win for the province in terms of addressing the issue of plastic pollution. Furthermore, thorough enforcement and monitoring are required to fully implement the ordinance's requirements to prevent it from becoming a mere piece of legislation.

Finally, we have to remember that it is critical to hold big corporations and manufacturers accountable for their waste and demand to switch to more sustainable packaging that is beneficial for the environment and the masses.

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