EDITORIAL - It is not the plastic bag, Part II

The Freeman

Mandaue City is now reaping the whirlwind from its ill-conceived full implementation of a no-plastics ban. The number of market vendors it has apprehended for continuing to use the useful plastic bag is growing. Then it was forced to issue notices of violation to several larger establishments like supermarkets and malls for similarly continuing to use the same, with an added threat of closure if the infractions go on.

What is staring Mandaue City in the face is a potential shutdown of market operations since public markets simply cannot operate without plastic bags. The same is true with supermarkets and malls. Paper bags just are not practical both for the kinds of products to be bought in public markets and for the sheer volume of goods Filipinos are known to buy in supermarkets and malls.

Those who implemented the complete ban on plastics and styrofoam containers simply do not understand the dynamics of Filipino shopping. The reality of Filipino public market shopping - where goods are wet, raw and unpackaged - makes paper bags utterly useless, especially during the rainy season and the shopper is carless and has to either walk or ride a jeepney or tricycle. Those who prefer malls and groceries are volume shoppers, again making paper bags useless.

Oh yes, the bright boys at the Mandaue City Hall have proposed an alternative - eco or green bags. Fine. Except that eco bags do not come free. Worse, they contradict the very reason why the bright boys wanted to do away with plastics in the first place. According to the geniuses, plastic bags are being banned because they clog up waterways and cause floods. Well, so do eco bags.

In fact, because eco bags are bigger, thicker and bulkier, they can cause far worse clogging of waterways and even more flooding than plastic bags. But then, that is to go along with this folly about plastic bags causing floods. The truth is, plastic bags, and eco bags for that matter, do not cause floods. Let that be made very clear. It is not obstructions of waterways that cause floods but the people who allow such obstructions to happen.

And Mandaue City, which is one of the most flood-prone areas in the Metropolis, is the worst inducer of its own floods by looking the other way when people throw their garbage indiscriminately. As one of the richest local governments in Cebu, it is difficult to see why it could not hire people whose only job it is to make the city clean, green, and its waterways obstruction-free. If Marikina is able to do it, there is no reason why Mandaue City cannot.

But there you go. It is far easier to find a scapegoat, especially if it does not talk back or complain, like a plastic bag. And it is far easier to talk about building drainage systems instead of ensuring that they work. Still, even the best drainage systems in greatest of nations just don't measure up when nature unleashes its wrath. There is only so much that man can do when far greater forces are at work. And it is the labor of puny men to fidget about an insignificant plastic bag.

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