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If the national government won’t address the plastic crisis, who will?

Local governments take on the burden of pandemic waste and the national government needs to heed their call

Press Release Date: December 14, 2021


Photo © Danny Ocampo

In the absence of national level solutions to the worsening plastic crisis, could local government hold the key to making a dent in the battle against harmful single-use plastics? More importantly, how can they be better supported with the task of solid waste management given the added burden of health care waste during the COVID-19 pandemic?

“Our plates are full, so to speak. We have barely addressed the plastic pollution problem in our respective jurisdictions and here we are facing another solid waste management issue which is handling the pandemic waste. We need ample support from the national government to help LGUs address the problem,” lamented Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued Memorandum Circulars to local government requiring the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment and to guide them in their compliance.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), there are around 65 million face shields currently in use nationwide. The proper handling of disposable masks is one thing, and the situation has been further aggravated by the recent lifting of the face shield protocol for certain areas under alert levels 1 to 3.

The DENR has previously revealed how the pandemic has resulted in a surge in hospital waste on top of the country’s solid waste problem. The agency said that 52,000 metric tons of hospital waste was generated as of April this year, out of which only 14,000 metric tons had been treated.

“It is certainly a daunting task but throughout this pandemic we have seen how not a few of our local government units have been at the forefront of addressing the plastic crisis that has dogged the country for many years,” Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President. She added that LGUs have issued their own resolutions seeking to address plastic pollution at source.

As of December 7, a total of 128 LGUs approved resolutions urging the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to issue the long-overdue list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAPP) materials which includes single-use plastics, to affect a nationwide ban on single-use plastics.

Ramos has earlier pointed out that this number was merely the “tip of the iceberg, considering that a far greater number of LGUs have yet to release similar resolutions.” According to the records of the DILG as of September 2020, the country has a total of 81 provinces, 146 cities and 1,488 municipalities.

Led by Oceana along with Health Care Without Harm, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Davao Del Sur State College, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS), Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) and Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), and local government officials and representatives, a virtual policy dialogue was held on Tuesday to tackle the additional burden of health care waste on LGUs.

“Our LGUs and communities are in dire need of help. Since the pandemic happened, they have had to singlehandedly cope with the added burden posed by personal protective equipment (PPE) on the country’s weak implementation of solid waste management. National government needs to wake up and support our communities,” she added during a policy dialogue held on Tuesday.

Back in August this year, LGUs in Cebu City and other areas affirmed the need to ban single-use plastic, lamenting that they have been left to their own devices in addressing the worsening solid waste crisis in their communities. Despite the directives from the national government agencies on the management of COVID-19 related health care waste, LGUs simply do not have the capacity to implement them. Some are not even receiving proper technical assistance from concerned national agencies.

Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director of Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia said the longer the national government puts off the implementation of RA 9003, the worse the country’s plastic crisis will get. “The burden should not be on our local government when in the first place it is the NSWMC that should have started issuing the NEAPP list way back in 2001. That list could have prevented the crisis our local government is now forced to contend with on top of plastic pollution. Our LGUs cannot do this alone.”

San Pascual was referring to the country’s 20-year-old Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act which mandates the NSWMC to issue NEAPP list within one year from the effectivity of the law and update it every year. The manufacturing, importation, distribution, use, and post-use of those in the NEAPP list will be rendered prohibited by the law. However, the NSWMC has largely neglected this mandate.

RA 9003 also states that hazardous wastes should be handled separately from other residential and commercial wastes. However, the DENR is still in the process of requesting for additional budget for the establishment of treatment and storage facilities for pandemic-related health care waste in 227 LGUs.

“Had the NSWMC done its job properly and started the issuance of the NEAPP list 20 years ago, we would have been better prepared to handle our problem with pandemic-related waste now. The national government needs to prioritize this problem before it is too late,” urged Ramos.

To date, these are the cities and municipalities that have issued their resolutions, according to Oceana’s records:

Province of Aklan Municipality of Albuquerque, Bohol Municipality of Cateel, Davao Oriental Municipality of Libmanan, Camarines Sur Municipality of Perez, Quezon Municipality of Siquijor, Siquijor
Province of Biliran Municipality of Alilem, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Cervantes, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Lidlidda, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Pilar, Sorsogon Municipality of St. Bernard, Southern Leyte
Province of Bohol Municipality of Anda, Bohol Municipality of Clarin, Bohol Municipality of Liloan, Southern Leyte Municipality of Pintuyan, Southern Leyte Municipality of Sta. Fe, Cebu
Province of Cebu Municipality of Anini-y, Antique Municipality of Culaba, Biliran Municipality of Limasawa, Southern Leyte Municipality of Pio Duran, Albay Municipality of Suyo, Ilocos Sur
Province of Davao Oriental Municipality of Antequera, Bohol Municipality of Culasi, Antique Municipality of Loboc, Bohol Municipality of President Carlos P. Garcia, Bohol Municipality of Talalora, Samar
Province of Ilocos Sur Municipality of Badian, Cebu Municipality of Daanbantayan, Cebu Municipality of Loon, Bohol Municipality of Quirino, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Talibon, Bohol
Province of Masbate Municipality of Baganga, Davao Oriental Municipality of Dauis, Bohol Municipality of Macrohon, Southern Leyte Municipality of Ronda, Cebu Municipality of Tanjay, Negros Oriental
Province of Oriental Mindoro Municipality of Balud, Masbate Municipality of Duero, Bohol Municipality of Mahinog, Camiguin Municipality of San Francisco, Southern Leyte n Municipality of Tibiao, Antique
Province of Southern Leyte Municipality of Banga, Aklan Municipality of Ginatilan, Cebu Municipality of Magsingal, Ilocos Sur Municipality of San Jose de Buenavista, Antique  Municipality of Trinidad, Bohol
City of Angeles, Pampanga Municipality of Bantayan Cebu Municipality of Gregorio del Pilar, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Maluso, Basilan Municipality of San Juan, Southern Leyte  Municipality of Ubay, Bohol


City of Bais, Negros Oriental Municipality of Bataan, Aklan Municipality of Guindulman, Bohol Municipality of Maribojoc, Bohol Municipality of San Remigio, Cebu  Municipality of Villareal, Samar


City Baguio, Benguet Municipality of Barbaza, Antique Municipality of Guinsiliban, Camiguin Municipality of Marabut, Samar Municipality of Santiago, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Zumarraga, Samar


City of Bogo, Cebu Municipality of Bien Unido, Bohol Municipality of Ibajay, Aklan Municipality of Motiong, Samar Municipality of Sebaste, Antique Municipality of Tangalan, Aklan
City of Danao, Cebu Municipality of Buruanga, Aklan Municipality of Jiabong, Samar Municipality of Nabas, Aklan Municipality of Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte Municipality of Pilar, Surigao del Norte
City of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental Municipality of Caibiran, Biliran Municipality of Kalibo, Aklan Municipality of Nabunturan, Davao de Oro Municipality of Sta. Rita, Samar Municipality of Malay, Aklan
City of Cebu, Cebu Municipality of Calbiga, Samar Municipality of Kawayan, Biliran Municipality of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Sibalom, Antique Municipality of Pinabacdao, Samar
City of Lapu-Lapu, Cebu Municipality of Candijay, Bohol Municipality of Larena, Siquijor Municipality of Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte Municipality of Sibonga, Cebu Municipality of Balete, Aklan
City of Maasin, Leyte Municipality of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Libacao, Aklan Municipality of Pandan, Antique Municipality of Sikatuna, Bohol Municipality of Libjo, Dinagat Islands
City of Ormoc, Leyte Municipality of Carmen, Bohol Municipality of Libagon, Southern Leyte Municipality of Panglao, Bohol Municipality of Silago, Southern Leyte Municipality of Burgos, Surigao del Norte
City of Talisay, Cebu Municipality of Catarman, Camiguin Municipality of Libertad, Antique Municipality of Paranas, Samar Municipality of Sinait, Ilocos Sur Municipality of Malinao, Aklan
Municipality of San Isidro, Surigao del Norte  Municipality of Daram, Samar  Municipality of Dapa, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte  Municipality of Caluya, Antique  Municipality of Numancia, Aklan  Municipality of San Sebastian, Samar
Municipality of Dinagat, Dinagat Islands Municipality of San Juan, Batangas


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.