House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda filed a resolution yesterday, (June 2) to investigate and audit the National Solid Waste Management Commission’s (NSWMC) and relevant government agencies on the implementation of Republic Act No. 9003, otherwise known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which became effective in 2001.
“Despite these legal mandates and budgetary support given in 2016 and 2017 amounting to P1.3 billion, the Commission has unjustifiably failed to act on its ministerial function of preparing the list of NEAPP in the last 20 years,” Legarda pointed out in the resolution.
Under Republic Act 9003, the Commission, which is composed of 14 national government agencies and private sector representatives, is mandated to prepare a list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAPP) within one year after the law’s effectivity, and update every year thereafter. The Secretaries of the member agencies of the Commission are required to formulate action plans for their respective agencies to complement the National Solid Waste Management Framework.
Legarda added that “this massive delay in the implementation has exacerbated the plastic pollution crisis in the country to the point where we have become known as among the top marine plastic debris polluters in the world with the largest source of single-use plastics leaking into the ocean.”
In a study by Ocean Conservancy in 2015, the Philippines produced 2.7 million metric tons of plastic wastes—more than half a million metric tons of which were leaked to the ocean. The Waste Assessment Brand Audit 2019 report of the Global Alliance for Incinerators Alternatives (GAIA) showed that the country produced daily 164 million pieces of sachets, 48 million shopping bags, 45.2 million pieces of “labo” bags.
The Asian Development Bank in its report in April 2020 estimated that Manila could have been generating up to 280 tons of extra medical waste per day during the peak of the pandemic.
“Deputy Speaker Legarda’s initiative is a much-welcome development to seriously address the perils of plastics. It is high time to inquire why after 20 years and, despite a progressive and visionary law, we are still among the laggards in mitigating and addressing the worsening plastic pollution problem in the country. Why are the Commission and agencies sitting on it? We cannot feel the sense of urgency even as we are facing a plastic crisis, with deep and damaging impacts on the health of our people and our ocean,” stressed Ocean Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos.
RA 9003 was enacted in 2001 to adopt a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management program to ensure the protection of public health and development.
“To effectively ban single-use plastics is to get rid of plastics from the source. We will not be in this plastic pandemic had the Commission fulfilled its legal mandate to the letter on the issuance of NEAPP list beginning 2002. We can’t just pass the burden to clean up the plastic waste to the consumers and local government units (LGUs) without asking the Commission to fulfill their responsibility by virtue of the law that established it,” pointed out Mae Chatto, Oceana’s campaign specialist and lead for the ban single-use plastics campaign.
In February of this year, the Commission held the first public consultation on the NEAPP list that yielded a resolution to ban two single-use plastics items: plastic soft drink straw and coffee stirrers. However, the said resolution has not yet been fully signed, as of press time.
Environmental groups including Oceana said that the ban on plastic stirrers and plastic straws is welcome but it is not enough to reduce plastic pollution.
Legarda, the principal author of RA 9003, emphasized that “the Philippines is an archipelagic nation that is now navigating in a sea of plastics with majority of the population, who, directly dependent on the marine resources and ecosystems, are now bearing the negative effects of plastic pollution in and around the coral reef environments.”
Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources.