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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, January 30, 2017
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Back to bayong

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Concerned with the proliferation of plastic trash all over the world, Senator Loren Legarda has called for stronger regulations on the use of plastic bags in the country.

Based on a 2016 report called the New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Legarda noted that at 311 million tons, the world produced 20 times more plastic in 2014 than it did in 1964 (15 million tons). At that rate, she said the oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish (by weight) by the year 2050.

Legarda adds that the Philippines, together with China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, is considered among the top contributors of plastic trash dumped into the sea. The five countries alone are spewing out as much as 60 percent of the plastic waste that enters the world's seas.

The Senator has filed Senate Bill 430 or the Proposed Plastic Bags Regulation Act which aims to strictly regulate the production, importation, sale and use of plastic bags. “This proposed measure discourages the use of plastic bags and encourages the use of native reusable bags made of organic or recycled materials, and reusable containers made of glass or non-toxic and non-hazardous materials,” she said.

The bill aims to put the use of single-use plastic bags to a minimum by prohibiting stores from providing the consumer with such bags. Only plastic bags that are used to contain fresh fish, meat and poultry products, and primary plastic packaging used to pre-pack food items and in manufacturing of finished products are excluded from the prohibitions of the bill.

Stopping the proliferation of plastic trash will be a tall order in a country where most of its people remain dependent on plastic bags as they go about their daily lives. It would be fine if Filipinos could somehow prove that we have been responsible in our use of plastic bags, but for our nation being considered one of the top contributors of the plastic trash being dumped in our seas, proves the need to change our ways.

With resistance expected from plastic manufacturers and from those resistant to change, Sen. Legarda's bill faces an uphill battle. Furthermore, even if it successfully passes the legislative mill and becomes law, enforcement will still depend on the determination of the government to change the way Filipinos shop for the sake of our planet and its future.

Filipinos used to do their shopping without plastic bags. Maybe it is time we started thinking about the future by looking to our past and going back to the bayong.*


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