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Climate and Environment

Youth, groups seek writ of kalikasan for government action vs plastic pollution

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Youth, groups seek writ of kalikasan for government action vs plastic pollution
Counsel Michael De Castro, Oceana vice president Gloria Estenzo Ramos and petitione Mae Chatto file a petition before the Supreme Court on October 27, 2021.
Oceana Philippines, Handout

MANILA, Philippines — Civil society organizations, fisherfolk and youth on Wednesday filed a petition against the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) and representatives of its member-agencies for their supposed negligence in the implementation of the law.

Fifty-two petitioners, led by Oceana Philippines, asked the Supreme Court to grant their petition for a writ of kalikasan and a writ of continuing mandamus for the NSWMC’s “inaction” on the issuance of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAPP)—one of its mandate under the two-decade old Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy for persons or organizations whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated or threatened.

Meanwhile, continuing mandamus is a writ issued by a court directing any government agency to perform an act or series of acts decreed by final judgment which shall remain effective until judgment is fully satisfied.

The petitioners also asked the court to immediately issue a Temporary Environmental Protection Order, directing the respondents to implement RA 9003 and perform their mandate as well as to prohibit the sale, distribution and usage of disposable plastics.

“The consequence of the respondents’ gross negligence is that the Philippines is now the top contributor of mismanaged plastic waste in the world. Plastic wastes choke our rivers, litter our beaches, defile our forests, spoil our agricultural lands and habitats, clog our drainages, sicken our people, and sully our seas and deepest trenches,” the petition read.

“This catastrophe could have been prevented if the respondents simply implemented their mandate, as Congress intended, 20 years ago,” it added.

The respondents of the petition include NSWMC and its members Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Benjamin Abalos, Jr.

Climate and health issues, too

Jon Bonifacio, a youth climate activist with Saribuhay, stressed that plastic pollution is not only a waste management issue but also a climate issue. Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels release large quantities of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere when burned.

"Banning single-use plastics in the Philippines and around the world is actually first and crucial step in mitigating the worst impacts of climate change in the future, particularly for the Philippines," Bonifacio said.

Oceana vice president Gloria Estenzo-Ramos also said the country’s plastic problem “puts our food security, livelihood and health on the line.”

Straws, stirrers

In February, the NSWMC included the first items on the list: plastic soft drink straws and coffee stirrers.

“The NEAPP has been published already so the implementing rules and regulations are on its way. At the same time, it will be implemented one year after the publication,” said Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, who serves as NSWMC’s alternate chair.

Groups, however, said that banning straws and stirrers was not enough and called for the inclusion plastic cutleries, labo bags, bottles, cups, plates, take-out containers, and styrofoam food containers on the list.

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

NATIONAL SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT COMMISSION

OCEANA PHILIPPINES

PLASTIC POLLUTION

SINGLE-USE PLASTICS

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