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Philippines

Group seeks plastic bag ban in Philippines

Supreme Court urged to force govt to take steps to prevent 'irreversible' environmental damage caused by plastic waste

Group seeks plastic bag ban in Philippines
Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi leads an effort to clean up the seabed in his province. (Photo courtesy of Father Ricky Bermas)

A group of climate and environmental activists has gone to the Philippines’ highest court to force the government to take steps to prevent “irreversible” damage to the environment brought about by plastic use by big corporations.

Oceana Philippines filed a 100-page lawsuit with the Supreme Court calling for the government to fulfill a constitutional right to a healthy environment.

The group seeks a ban on commercial establishments, warehouses and manufacturers from selling, conveying, distributing and using disposable plastic bags with endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as Bisphenol-A.

The US Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of products with Bisphenol-A after studies show the compound affected the growth, reproduction and development of aquatic organisms in oceans and other bodies of water.

“After 20 years of thumb twiddling, it has become abundantly clear that [government officials] cannot be bothered to avoid or diminish plastic pollution in line with the precautionary principle,” wrote Oceana in their petition.

The precautionary principle enables decision-makers such as the president and cabinet members to adopt pro-environment measures when there is evidence of environmental degradation and threats to human lives.

We should be inspired by their courage to challenge big corporations not to pollute our waters by the plastics they use

Oceana Philippines pointed to a 2020 Philippine brand audit citing eight major companies that have produced harmful chemicals and were the top plastic polluters in the country.

“The 2020 audit covered 38,580 pieces of branded plastic waste items recovered from 17 sites,” the group said.

Oceana Philippines also cited an Oxford University report saying around 80 percent of global ocean plastic waste comes from Asian rivers, with the Philippines contributing a third of that total.

Future generations must “be given a fighting chance of being born into a world that is not drowning in plastic,” the group said.

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Father Junjun Carbonel from Digos Diocese in Davao province backed the move, saying taking care of the environment was a moral duty of all Christians.

“It is good that this group of environmentalists is brave enough to mount a case to seek protection from the Supreme Court. We should be inspired by their courage to challenge big corporations not to pollute our waters by the plastics they use,” Father Carbonel told UCA News.

Efforts to combat plastic waste deserve praise said the priest, citing a recent clean-up campaign in which Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi picked up plastic from the seabed in Bicol province.

“He spearheaded a group of divers to clean up the seabed in his diocese. That was so inspiring,” he added.

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