The Philippines is in a plastic pollution crisis — a complicated problem that needs a comprehensive solution; one wherein the government and private sector work hand in hand to “stop the tap.” This means creating long-lasting solutions that look at the whole life cycle of plastics, and not merely at waste management which is already addressed by existing policies like RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Law). While improving our waste management facilities and systems is necessary, it is not enough. Plastic pollution and its related health risks must be stopped at the source instead of merely relying on offsets and end-of-pipe solutions. Policies like HB 9147 must enforce regulations at the upstream (production level), which it seeks to do through phaseouts of items and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes. This would effectively convey to plastic producers that they have a responsibility to significantly reduce their contribution to the plastic crisis by shifting to alternate delivery systems.
The massive production of plastics is not only environmentally destructive but is also predicated by continuous oil and fossil fuel extraction. The International Energy Agency reports that petrochemicals used to manufacture plastics are expected to compose more than a third of the growth in world oil demand in 2030, and about half the growth by 2050. If left unregulated, this oil expansion alarmingly amounts to 7 million barrels of oil. Put simply: plastic production fuels climate change. If our government is unequivocal in addressing the urgency of the climate crisis, we must deal with unregulated plastic production immediately. Keeping in mind that in the pursuit to regulate SUPs, we must do away with offsetting, which allows harmful and environmentally destructive schemes such as co-processing, incineration, and various waste-to-energy technology, as these still exacerbate climate change by releasing greenhouse gases in addition to toxic substances.
It is the duty of our leaders to make choices that benefit Filipinos and future generations. For too long, our country has been stagnant about this crisis, with the fight against single-use plastics having gone on for decades. This is because resolutions that lead to significant change constantly fail to be implemented. In this critical decade for climate action, token activism absent of action is something we simply cannot afford. The LGUs of Quezon City and San Fernando, Pampanga among others, have succeeded in banning single-use plastic. This kind of change can be achieved on a national level through this bill, which is why it must immediately be reviewed, improved, and passed without provisions which are detrimental to people and the planet.
We therefore call for an environmentally sound single-use plastics regulation focused on upstream solutions, excluding harmful and environmentally destructive offsetting schemes, implementing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), setting a more ambitious timeline to phase out single-use plastics, and transitioning businesses to reuse systems. With these important provisions that will entail necessary actions from all stakeholders, we can eradicate plastic pollution — taking a huge step towards a truly sustainable Philippines.