By Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate
It is undeniable that the Philippines is in an alarming state of plastic pollution. Even without recently publicized reports that name the Philippines as among the Asian countries with worse plastic pollution problem, the current state of waterways in the country, particularly in urban areas like Metro Manila, is a clear and loud expression of the extent of the problem.
It is time that the government leads all Filipinos in recognizing and solving the problem.
The ban on the use of plastic bags in commercial establishments has only been an initiative of some local government units like Quezon City.
Given the current extent of plastic pollution in the country, there is obviously the need to have a nationwide ban.
A law is needed for this as it is also obvious that the private sector, particularly commercial establishments, will most likely not take the initiative to abandon the more convenient use of plastic products especially when the same negatively impacts on their profits.
A supermarket chain, for example, with branches in Quezon City and in Bulacan, does not use plastic bags in their stores in the former but does in their stores in the latter.
In crafting a national policy on the use of plastic products, our lawmakers can learn a lot from the experiences of local government units that have early banned the use of plastic in commercial establishments.
One of the points to consider is the option given to consumers to still use plastic bags as long as they are willing to pay an “environmental fee,” which in essence is not commensurate to the environmental damage caused by the same.
In Quezon City, for example, consumers can still use plastic bags as long as they pay R2 per bag.
Is there really a monetary price to environmental protection? The environmental fee is supposed to discourage the use of plastic bags, yet, the mechanism appears to be ineffective as plastic pollution still remains to be a serious problem in areas like Quezon City.
Our lawmakers should also focus on the mechanisms for policy implementation. Is the ban on the use of plastic bags in concerned cities and municipalities effectively implemented? Plastic bags are not used in malls and supermarkets but are they not used in wet markets and sari-sari stores?
While the government should take the lead in addressing the plastic pollution in our country, the problem cannot be solved unless the private sector shares in the responsibility of protecting our environment.