Interest groups, Oceana to sue government agency and officials for indolence on marine plastic pollution
Press Release Date: June 29, 2021
Marine conservation group Oceana and other stakeholders is taking legal action to press concerned government agencies to do its job and implement the law to address ballooning problem of marine plastic pollution, specifically on single-use plastic.
Notices to sue were served on June 15, 2021 to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), its OIC executive director Emelita C. Aguinaldo, and 13 of its members, including Environment secretary Roy A. Cimatu, Trade secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Science and Technology secretary Fortunato dela Pe?a, Health secretary Francisco Duque III, Public Works secretary Mark S. Villar, Agriculture secretary William Dar, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority CEO Benjamin Abalos Jr., among others.
Coming from various provinces in the country, the stakeholders— representing the youth and children, fisherfolk, NGOs, divers, as well as select local government officials—decided to sue the government agency and its officials for what they consider as “apathy to the heavy burden of mounting plastic pollution” that has inundated the country’s waters
Speaking for Oceana, its Vice President Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos said “we can no longer bear the inaction of the NSWMC which has failed to implement its mandated task to prepare a list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAPP). Their lack of concern for 20 long years is far too deplorable and inexcusable. The groups believe it was time to interpose and seek legal action on this issue.”
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.
As provided in Republic Act 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, the NSWMC is mandated to prepare a list of NEAPP within a year after the law’s effectivity and updates every year thereafter. The commission is composed of 14 national government agencies and private sector representatives.
RA 9003, which was signed on June 26, 2001, was enacted to promote the adoption of a systematic, comprehensive, and ecological solid waste management program to ensure the protection of public health and development.
The groups’ legal move comes on the heels of a resolution filed by House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda on June 2 to investigate and audit the NSWMC.
In that resolution, Legarda—who was one of the principal authors of RA 9003—pointed out that “despite these legal mandates and budgetary support is 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.”
The move also complements the Climate Change Commission’s (CCC) policy development and implementation thrust towards a nationwide ban of single-use plastic. During the recent Sulong Pilipinas forum with the youth sector on Climate Change, CCC commissioner Rachel Herrera also pushed for the banning of single-use plastic. “Our country’s single-use plastic problem is already hurting the entire planet. This is not the wake-up call—we’ve already been hearing that for many years now; but it is high time to stop pressing the snooze button, and start solving the problem,” she said. (Source: https://climate.gov.ph/news/516)
Recent news reports also quoted Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and concurrent CCC chairman-designate, as he emphasized how “every Filipino can play a key role in mitigating these by explaining to them how eco-friendly initiatives such as banning single-use plastics will benefit them and future generations over the long term.” (Source: https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1139994).
Meanwhile, a recently concluded marine science expedition on the West Philippine Sea found piles of PET bottles in Pagasa, Patag, and Lawak, floating packaging materials in Sabina and Ayungin, and discarded fishing gear or ghost nets in the different coral reefs in the area. (Source: Dr Deo Onda presentation highlights)
Marine scientist Dr. Deo Onda who participated in the expedition shared in a recent forum that the seagull sanctuary in Lawak Island in the Kalayaan Island Group is “already inundated by marine plastics” and that some of the birds have already died. This (plastic waste) is a direct threat to the biodiversity in the area.”
Oceana and the other interest groups sent the required Notice to Sue to the members of the commission. “If the responses are not encouraging, we will have to proceed and avail of legal remedies available under the Constitution and the various laws,” said Ramos.
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.
For more information:
Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana