Cynthia Villar cites firms helping address Philippines plastic waste woes
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Cynthia Villar has cited a group of manufacturers for taking concrete steps to help solve the country’s plastic waste problem.

Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, praised the private companies in witnessing the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS) and the Parañaque City government for the installation of a plastic waste recycling facility and research and development center in Barangay La Huerta.

Signing the MOA last week were PARMS president Crispian Lao and Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez.

PARMS is a multi-sectoral coalition composed of top corporations in the fast-moving consumer goods sector, including Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines, Kopiko, Monde Nissin, Mondelez International, Nestle, Oishi, Pepsi Cola Products Philippines, Procter and Gamble, Unilever and Universal Robina.

“You are all on the right track in integrating sustainability in your business strategies. I think that makes good business sense and our future generations will thank you for that,” Villar said.

She added that in the light of a study indicating that the Philippines is the third largest producer of plastic waste in the ocean next to China and Indonesia, drastic steps should be taken to reduce plastic waste.

The reelectionist senator is pushing for the implementation of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) concept now being practiced in European countries to reduce waste.

EPR is an environmental protection strategy requiring manufacturers using plastic materials in their packaging to be responsible for recovering the plastic waste.

It may take the form of reuse, buy-back or recycling program. The practice shifts the responsibility for waste management from government to the manufacturers.

Villar said she would also work for the amendment of the 19-year-old Solid Waste Management Act to make it more responsive to the changing times.

The establishment of the plastic waste recycling facility by PARMS was inspired by the efforts of Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance (Villar SIPAG) to recycle residual plastics into school chairs.

The facility is set to be operational within the first quarter of 2020.

The plastic factory built by Villar in Las Pinas produces armchairs made with “soft plastics.” These are made to look like wooden chairs with changeable parts and have a life span of 20 years.

One school chair needs 20 kilos of soft plastics such as food wrappers to produce. These school chairs are donated to public schools all over the country.

Villar SIPAG plastics factories have also been built in Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro.

The senator said her family would be donating a similar recycling factory in Marawi, to help in the city’s rehabilitation.

“I’m happy that many are participating in recycling. Of course, we cannot do this alone. Everybody should participate. Every town that will participate is a significant help,” she said.

The MOA signing held at the Eden Room of Mondelez Philippines Inc. in Parañaque was also witnessed by Rep. Gus Tambunting, Mondelez plant head Atul Kulkarni, PARMS vice president Bert Guevarra and Parañaque City Environment and Natural Resources Office head Bernie Amurao.

A ceremonial turnover of Green Antz Eco-brick installations to the seven pilot beneficiary schools was also held with the principals and representatives of Colonel E. de Leon Elementary School, Don Galo Elementary School, Parañaque Central Elementary School, Paranaque Central Unit II, San Dionisio Elementary School and Sto. Niño Elementary School.

Meanwhile, environmental group Greenpeace yesterday expressed alarm on the frequency of marine animals dying due to plastic ingestion.

“In less than a year, whales, dolphins and turtles have died in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, a clear proof of how grave plastic pollution affects our environment, most specifically ocean creatures,” Greenpeace said.

“In Davao Gulf alone, three whales and a dolphin have been found dead with plastic in their stomach for this year, and we are just about to close the first quarter of 2019,” it added.

The group issued the statement after a young whale washed ashore on the beaches of Compostela Valley in Mindanao on Friday. An examination of the carcass of the whale revealed that the causes of death are “starvation and dehydration” after it was found that it ingested 40 kilograms of plastic, and was tagged as one of the worst cases of poisoning ever seen.   – With Rhodina Villanueva

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