Government pressed anew to act on plastic waste mess


OCEANA Philippines, a non-profit conservation organization, led several other environmental groups and individuals in filing a petition before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, seeking the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan and a continuing mandamus that would compel concerned government agencies to address the environmental and health hazards brought about the unabated use of plastic products in the country.

Aside from the Writ of Kalikasan and a writ of continuing mandamus, the petitioners also asked the Court to immediately issue a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) to prohibit the manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of non-environmentally acceptable plastic products pending the Court’s decision on the merits of the petition.

A Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy for the protection of one’s right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” under Section 16, Article II of the Constitution.

The petitioners said the Court should compel concerned agencies to perform their duty under provisions of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2020, Article III of the 1987 Constitution and the Philippines’s international obligations to prevent transboundary harm under the London Protocol on the Prevention of Marine Pollution, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and customary international law.

Named respondents in the petition were Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Roger Mercado, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Agriculture Secretary William Dar, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Secretary Isidro Lapeña, Philippine Information Agency Director General Ramon Cualoping III, League of Provincial Governors  headed by Governor Presbitero Velasco, League of Mayors headed by Evelio Leonardia, League of Municipal Mayors headed by Mayor Luis “Chavit” Singson and the  Liga ng mga Barangay headed by Eden Chua-Pineda.

The petitioners cited a study published in 2021, which singled out the country as the largest contributor of plastic emissions in the world.

In a 101-page petition, the petitioners pointed out that RA 9003 contains a regulatory mechanism for identifying and prohibiting the so-called “non-environmentally acceptable products and packages.”

The same law gave the NSWMC the mandate to formulate and update a list of these “non-environmentally acceptable products and packages.”

The petitioners said the law, which was passed in 2000, also gave the respondents time constraints by imposing a one-year deadline on NSWMC and by instituting a periodic review mechanism.

Once the NSWMC issues the list of identified non-environmentally acceptable products, the commission may prohibit and impose fines on commercial establishments caught manufacturing, distributing or using the banned plastic products.

A fine of at least P500,000 and a maximum of three years of imprisonment may be imposed to the offenders upon conviction.

“For twenty long years—an entire generation—the respondents steadfastly refused to prepare the list of non-environmentally acceptable products as mandated by Section 29 [of RA  9003],” the petitioners pointed out.

“Not even the resolutions of 108 LGUs (local government units) from across the entire country begging and urging the NSWMC to issue the list of non-environmentally acceptable products and to specifically ban single-use plastics were enough to spur it to action,” it added.

Due to the refusal of the concerned government agencies to act on the plastic pollution problem, the petitioners said, the original 5,350 metric tons per day of waste that spurred Congress to pass R.A. 9003 in 2000 has ballooned to 11,953 metric tons per day in 2021.

It also cited a study published in Science Advances in April this year, where the Philippines has been singled out as the largest contributor to plastic emissions in the world, dumping 356,371 metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste per year, which passes through 4,280 of its rivers and into the ocean.

Petitioners said the government’s inaction resulted in the disposal of plastic waste at the approximate rate of 164 million sachets, 48 million shopping bags, and 45.2 million plastic labo discarded daily.

“The continued disregard of the respondents’ mandate under RA  9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) will continue to aggravate the widespread environmental damage already caused by the proliferation of plastic to the natural life support system that we all depend on for survival. Worse, the lives and health of every Filipino now existing and yet unborn is continuously prejudiced by the respondents’ refusal to implement their mandate,” the petitioners said.

“Every second that the respondents continue to allow the defilement of our natural resources and the very environment we all depend on for life, only the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of cheap plastic products stand to profit at the expense of the health, lives, and future of everyone else,” the petitioners added.

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