Tolentino: Save earth, ban plastics

Francis Tolentino

“LET’S encourage government offices to gradually ban the use of plastics and do regular cleanup activities,” former MMDA Chair and administration Senate bet Francis Tolentino proposed yesterday as he called for a “serious and concerted effort to encourage a culture that cares for the environment.”

Tolentino’s remark coincided with the start of April’s Earth Month commemoration. Earth Day 2019 will be celebrated on April 22.

“Our ultimate goal should be the total ban of plastics nationwide, but we have to start somewhere, and government is a good place to start. We should lead by example and walk the talk. The government cannot expect citizens to value cleanliness if we who serve do not actively implement pro-environment measures,” Tolentino added.

The Senate bet explained that an effective ban should focus on single-use plastics, which include plastic bags, coffee cups, bottled water, straws, coffee stirrers, and food packaging or wrappers.

“The Philippine Information Agency (PIA), for example, has already started efforts in late 2018 to ban these single-use plastics in their offices and attached agencies. We just need to popularize the campaign in other departments and start changing the mindset of people in government regarding their everyday dependence on plastic products.”

A 2015 report by the United Nations Environment Program revealed that about half of all of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

UN statistics further noted that the Philippines wastes 6,237,653 kg (6875.84 tons) of plastic per day, of which 81% is mismanaged. By contrast, Japan and the United States similarly waste millions of kilograms per day -- 19,605,620 kg and 37,729,383 kg respectively -- but both had a 0% mismanagement rating.

“Of course we’ve made strides in the no plastics campaign because cities such as Makati, Quezon City, Pasig, Muntinlipa, Las Piñas, and Pasay have implemented the local ordinances to that effect. We want to expand coverage to government agencies, and to make it nationwide at the soonest possible time,” the former MMDA head said.

“In addition, we should enlist government agencies to be involved in regular cleanup campaigns as a necessary next step to the plastics ban.”

Tolentino noted that he would propose the issuance of an executive order by President Rodrigo Duterte delineating the administration’s single-use plastic policy.

He further noted he was closely monitoring both houses of Congress after they passed their respective versions of bills banning the use of single-use plastics.

House Bill 8962 was filed last January while the Senate has its own version (Senate Bill 1948), each aiming to regulate the manufacturing, importation, and use of single-use plastic products. The measures likewise provide penalties, levies, and incentives for industries, businesses, and consumers.

“The plastics ban and cleanup drives go hand in hand. I’d definitely lead any efforts to popularize these campaigns, especially in government.”

The Senate bet added that since the campaign season is ongoing, candidates should be mindful about using recyclable materials for their posters, handouts and other campaign paraphernalia.

“It’s all in line with the call for setting a good example to the public,” Tolentino emphasized.