Plastic fiesta decor at odds with bishops' stance for environment, Quiapo Church reminded

Plastic fiesta decor at odds with bishops' stance for environment, Quiapo Church reminded
In this picture taken on Oct. 9, 2020, Catholic faithful sit outside the Quiapo church in Manila, as health protocols imposed by authorities limit church goers inside the church to filling only 10 percent of their seating capacity. After months of livestreaming mass to millions of faithful from behind closed doors, churches in the Catholic-majority Philippines are beginning to reopen.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — An environmental health group on Tuesday took the Quiapo Church to task for decorating its plaza with disposable plastic banderitas.

In a statement, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed concern after it reported plastic “labo” buntings at the church ahead of the feast day of St. John the Baptist on June 24.

The coalition said this came as a result of its monitoring of wasteful plastic banderitas in community festivities, noting the need for concerted action to stop plastic pollution from all sources.

"Plastic 'labo,' a small and super thin plastic commonly used as packaging for food, is among the most ubiquitous plastic garbage found on land and in the rivers and oceans," the coalition said.

“The use of throw-away fiesta buntings is not in tune with the call for ecological conversion made by the Catholic bishops in the midst of climate emergency facing our nation and planet Earth,” Jove Benosa, zero waste campaigner at the EcoWaste Coalition also said.

The group in its statement reminded the church of the 2019 pastoral statement by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines pushing for “continuing ecological conversion” and for “ecological actions,” including “eliminating single-use plastics,” to help address the “ecological crisis.”

Earlier in February, 188 groups in a position paper presented at the UN Environment Assembly said that single-use products are a key contributor to the two billion tons of waste that humans produce annually. The figure is projected to increase by 70% by 2050.

Even the United Nations has spoken in favor of phasing out or banning thin film single-use plastic bags to arrest the growing problem with marine litter

“We urge our churches to design single-use plastic out of our faith-inspired celebrations,” said Benosa.  “It’s time to say good riddance to disposable plastic buntings that only turn into residual garbage, which  is dumped or burned somewhere or gets spilled into the oceans.” 

The group is hopeful that more dioceses and parishes in the country will roll out policies and campaigns to reduce plastic consumption and disposal, especially of single-use plastics. 

“As wasteful plastic banderitas play no role in the successful conduct of any religious activity, we appeal to our community and church leaders to junk the outmoded practice of hanging fiesta buntings in the streets and plazas,” the coalition said.

“The true essence of our faith-stirred celebrations is not measured by the length and color of plastic buntings crisscrossing our streets, but on how we care for one another and for our Mother Earth, especially in times of difficulties such as during the COVID-19 pandemic."

— with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico 

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