Environmental groups on Monday welcomed the Supreme Court’s issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan and a Writ of Continuing Mandamus against plastic pollution on December 7, 2021.
The SC resolution granted the petition filed by 52 individuals and groups led by ocean conservation advocacy nongovernment organization Oceana Philippines in October this year, assailing the inaction of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) in coming up with a list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAPP) as mandated by Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act 20 years after its enactment.
“We congratulate the civil society petitioners and laud the Supreme Court for its immediate action, which we believe will obligate assigned agencies to do their utmost best to release the NEAPP list that should have been issued 20 years ago. It’s high time to decide on environmentally acceptable products and packaging amid the plastic waste and chemical crisis that imperils food safety and security, human health and the environment now more than ever. This will hasten our nation’s quest toward a zero waste and toxic-free circular economy,” Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, said in a news statement.
Environmentally acceptable pertains “to the quality of being reusable, biodegradable or compostable, recyclable and not toxic or hazardous to the environment” as stated in the garbage law.
The SC Writ of Kalikasan and Continuing mandamus now compels the NSWMC, a multi-agency body to implement the NEAPP provisions of RA 9003.
Section 29 of RA 9003 mandates the NSWMC to prepare a list of non-environmentally acceptable products one year after the law has taken effect, while Section 30 bans commercial establishments from selling or conveying products placed, wrapped or packaged in non-environmentally acceptable packaging after the phase-out period.
Oceana Philippines said in the same statement that the SC’s decision was “a huge first step to change mindsets and embed the protection of our ocean.”
“This is indeed a very special case that merits the attention and needed action from every Filipino,” Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines said.
“This sets a solid foundation and precedent upon which we can build our collective efforts to battle the plastic crisis that continues to threaten our natural world including our ocean, food security, livelihood and health,” she added.
In welcoming the SC resolution, Mark Peñalver, executive director of the Davao-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and one of the petitioners said for his part IDIS saw how plastic pollution affects our watersheds and our water sources and endangers wildlife and their habitats. IDIS, along with our partners, was successful in lobbying for the regulation of single-use plastics in Davao City.”
“However, without clear guidelines from the National Government, the LGUs can only do so much within its authority. Thus, this case is of significant interest in our fight against the plastic crisis as this will set a precedent to future policies especially to the LGUs,” he pointed out.
“This decision by the Supreme Court reaffirms the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology,” he added.
IDIS is a nongovernment organization working towards the protection and sustainable management of the watersheds in South-Central Mindanao.
Two global studies on beached and recycled plastic pellets released last December 14 by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), which counts on the EcoWaste Coalition and IDIS among its members, reveal the presence of toxic chemical additives and pollutants in plastics that pose multiple health threats to humans and the environment.
The health effects include causing cancer or changing hormone activity (known as endocrine disruption), which can lead to reproductive, growth, and cognitive impairment. Many of the toxic chemical additives have several other known health impacts, persist in the environment, and bio accumulates in exposed organisms, according to the studies.