WHICH DAY FOR NO PLASTIC?

Posted on August 26, 2012

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It’s not a matter of why, but when plastic bags should be prohibited in Cebu City.

The “No Plastic Saturday Ordinance” of Cebu City Councilors Nida Cabrera and Edgar Labella received initial support in last week’s public hearing with no objections.

At least two large malls in Cebu already encourage shoppers to forego plastic bags one day a week to use an alternative like a woven native “bayong” or reusable “green bag”.

While SM City promotes the use of eco bags on Wednesday, Ayala Center highlights Friday.

Chances are good that the eco-friendly ordinance will be finalized in the weeks ahead and approved by the City Council on second reading.

More wide ranging plastic bag bans are being adopted in Davao City, Quezon City, Muntinlupa, Albay province, Calamba. Dumaguete City starts enforcing a ban on Aug. 28.

SM City Cebu mall manager Cherry Tuvilla told the City Council that SM malls already promote the use of eco-bags on Wednesdays as part of its campaign since 2008 to promote “sustainable shopping habits and lifestyle choices.”

She suggested Wednesday, a lean day, as a target for the ordinance and asked for time to brief retail tenants of the new city regulation.

However, Councilor Cabrera said other malls in the city prefer Friday.

ONE PESO INCENTIVE

As proposed, all business establishments in Cebu City shall not use plastic shopping bags or packaging materials on Saturday or offer them for sale to customers.

As an incentive for the public, stores have to provide a minimum of P1 or its equivalent in points and freebies to a customer who brings his own empty container or sack or cloth bag or woven bag, or who returns a used plastic shopping bag.

Store operators also have to set up a recovery bin for the public to turn over their plastic bags.

The suggested penalty is a P2,000 fine for the first two years of implementation. On the third year, the fine increases to P5,000 with six month’s imprisonment and one year cancellation of a business permit.

MAYOR’S PUSH

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he was committed to sign the measure into law.

“It is important that we take care of our garbage. We have to really be serious about the matter otherwise we will be creating our own demise,” said Rama referring to the severe flooding which left half of Metro Manila and parts of Luzon under water last month.

Plastics are a “grave threats to Filpino lives since they effectively block drainage systems and waterways, helping cause deadly and massive flooding,” said the ordinance.

The mayor asked the council to pass the year-old draft ordinance.

It was first filed in March 2011 by Labella with a second one filed this year by Cabrera, chairperson of the environment committee.

The joint version proposes Saturday for a no-plastics day in Cebu city, focusing on business retailers and malls.

The purpose of the ordinance is to “eliminate the widespread use of plastic shopping bags for packaging”, prevent the pollution of waterways, clogging of sewage and prevent burdening the Inayaywan Landfill, which often results in flooding.

It also aims to raise revenues in solid waste management and raise public awareness about the use of plastic.

Even public markets will have recovery bins put up. In private establishments, the bin should be clearly marked and visible to the public. Discarded plastic bottles and other plastic wastes will be returned to manufacturers for recycling.

In the Aug. 22 public hearing, three speakers addressed the council, all giving positive feedback.

Aside from the SM mall manager Zenaida Amores of the Tabo sa Banay Vendors Association; and Christian Lao, past president of the Philippine Plastic Industry Association spoke.

Amores said Tabo sa Banay vendors want to be included in the coverage of the ordinance as a commitment to the city’s garbage campaign and as a means of thanking the city for allowing them to sell.

Lao, who is also with the National Solid Waste Commission, lauded the councilors for coming up with the “No Plastic Saturday Ordinance.”

“All problems with plastic is related to disposal issues. We do not only focus on the aspect of the environment but look at the totality of the problem. I like the ordinance because it has plastic recovery provisions,” said Lao.

Several Philippine cities have started a plastic ban but only a few like Quezon City and now Cebu City mention how to recover used plastics, he said.

Early this year, Cabrera filed her measure but withdrew it for more study after some councilors said Cebu City wasn’t ready for a plastic ban.

After consulting mall managers and plastic retailers and suppliers, she refiled the ordinance in July, integrating it with Labella’s measure.

It takes up to 1,000 years for some types of plastic to decompose, the ordinance notes.

“The right to health and a balanced and healthy ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment,” it added.

Councilor Augustus Pe Jr. suggested including ice water plastic packs under the list of banned items because these are what clog canals, not shopping bags. /Doris C. Bongcac, CHIEF OF REPORTERS

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