Climate and environmental advocates pushing for systemic changes to address the country’s plastic pollution problem expressed support and reservations about House Bill No. 9147 or the Single-Use Plastics Regulation Bill which was approved by the Committee on Ecology of the House of Representatives last March.

 

The comments were made during the 8th episode of the Klimatotohanan webcast series of The Climate Reality Project Philippines entitled “What’s SUP? Exploring our Plastics Problem and the Climate Crisis,” which delved into the urgency of solving the plastics problem and the need for policies that will phase out single-use plastics in the country.

House Bill No. 9147 was approved at the Committee level after the conduct of several technical working group meetings and consultations with stakeholders and experts. It officially consolidated 38 bills and four resolutions seeking to phase out or regulate single-use plastics.

“Recycling alone cannot solve this problem. We cannot recycle out of this problem,”
JANSSEN CALVELO, BREAK FREE FROM PLASTIC MOVEMENT

For Climate Reality Leader Janssen Calvelo, Network Organizer for Southeast Asia of the Break Free From Plastic Movement, the bill is a great start towards solving the plastic pollution crisis. “Recycling alone cannot solve this problem. We cannot recycle out of this problem,” he said.

Calvelo, however, pointed out the need to improve the definition of single-use plastics in the current version of the bill.

“There should be a more encompassing definition of single-use plastics because we have seen in different situations where other companies or the plastic industry in other countries have leveraged on using this other definition of plastics,” Calvelo said, referring to compostable plastics that are made out of biodegradable materials but are coated with plastics or even mixed with chemicals that make them difficult to decompose in a normal environment.

Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President of Oceana Philippines, meanwhile, said she has reservations about the new single-use plastics bill.

Calling the new bill a surplusage, Ramos explained that the regulation and phase-out of single-use plastics are already covered by Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. “What is lacking here is the implementation. We don’t need this [new] bill for the agencies to do their job because it’s already in RA 9003,” she said.

Republic Act No. 9003 mandates the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to prepare, within one year from the effectivity of the law, the list of non-environmentally acceptable products (NEAPs) to be banned following a phase-out plan that will be developed in consultation with stakeholders.

However, 20 years since the law has passed, NSWMC has yet to develop a phase-out plan for NEAPs, which should include single-use plastics.

Ramos also shared that she is concerned about the new bill repealing Republic Act No. 9003, which includes a provision for citizen suits. “There is a recognition for the rights of citizens to hold accountable public officials, government agencies, private sector, or individuals who are not complying with the provisions of RA 9003.”

“I believe we should look into incentivizing micro, small, and medium enterprises to be on par with extended producer responsibility schemes,”
CARLO DELANTAR, GOBI PARTNERS

Commenting on the current form of the bill, Climate Reality Leader Carlo Delantar, Co-Chair of the Global Shapers Climate Action Steering Committee at the World Economic Forum and Circular Economy Pioneer at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, pointed out the need to ensure a just transition for all sectors that will be affected by the bill.

“I believe we should look into incentivizing micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to be on par with extended producer responsibility schemes,” Delantar said. “How do we not affect all these tahovendors or sari-sari stores that rely on single-use plastics? We need to create that long-term anti-disruption, especially when we’re looking at the post-pandemic situation,” he added.

Atty. Rio Catbagan, Chief of the Legal Services Division of the Climate Change Commission, a member agency of the House Technical Working Group on Single-Use Plastics, said that the economic implications of the phase-out have been discussed in Congress.

She noted that it is important to give affected MSMEs and laborers time to innovate and find ways on how they can shift and implement the transition. She added that the government could support through financial packages, workforce restructuring, and capacity building services.

The new single-use plastic bill is one of the many topics of discussion during the 8th episode of the Klimatotohanan webcast. To watch the episode in full, click here.