On Month of the Ocean, groups call for policies that will protect country's seas

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
On Month of the Ocean, groups call for policies that will protect country's seas
This file photo shows a man wading through the sea of trash.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, File

MANILA, Philippines — Environmental organizations on Thursday called for laws and regulations that will protect the country’s seas from the “devastating” effects of plastic and chemical pollution.

Oceana Philippines, Mother Earth Foundation and EcoWaste Coalition made the appeal as the nation celebrates the “Month of the Ocean” in May.

The groups warned that uncontrolled production and use of single-use plastics and indiscriminate disposal of plastic and other pollutants pose threat to the health of the world’s oceans as well as the survival of humans and other life forms.

Plastic pollution is a major problem in the Philippines. The country—along with China, Vietnam and Indonesia—is frequently listed among the top contributors to marine plastic pollution.

Almost 59.8 billion pieces of plastic sachets and more than 17 billion shopping bags are used across the country every year, according to a study of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives released in 2019.

“We need to draw up and enforce holistic policies to put a stop to this devastating pollution, as well as to the unrestrained coastal developments, overfishing and climate change that are damaging the oceans,” the organizations said.

Proposed pollution prevention policies

Oceana Philippines urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to include single-use plastics in the list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAP).

“The effect would be a tremendous reduction at the source of plastic pollution as production, use and trade of single-use plastics as NEAP will be prohibited, with a hefty fine and other sanctions,” Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Philippines vice president, said.

A survey commissioned by GAIA in January found that seven out of 10 Filipinos want single-use plastics banned at all times, with sando bags topping the list of materials that should be regulated or used less.

In November last year, President Rodrigo Duterte floated the idea of banning the use of plastics. Prohibiting or regulating the use of plastics, however, would require legislative action.

Sonia Mendoza, Mother Earth Foundation chairman, said there is a need for a “toxics in packaging disclosure law” that will control the presence of lead, cadmium, mercury and other hazardous substances in packaging materials.

“Now more than ever, we see the need for a comprehensive policy banning throw-away plastic packaging to reduce their manufacture, prevent chemical and waste pollution and ensure the successful implementation of such a policy nationwide, while non-toxic reusable bags and containers are actively promoted and supported,” Jove Benosa, EcoWaste Coalition zero waste campaigner, said.

Benosa also said the government should adopt a national ban on waste importation and ratify the Basel Ban Agreement, which prohibits the transfer of hazardous waste and other wastes from developed to developing countries.

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