A proposed ordinance prohibiting the release of flying balloons within the territorial jurisdiction of Puerto Princesa was filed last Monday by a member of the City Council.
This, and the earlier passed ordinance regulating the use of single use plastics, is a laudable move on the part of the Council. Puerto Princesa is now taking more practicable measures on environmental protection and conservation.
When a balloon is released into the air, it can travel miles, then burst or deflate and fall. Usually in water. Awareness of the threats and dangers to wildlife, mainly marine creatures, caused by balloons is recent to most of the Philippine population. Balloons released into the air is tantamount to throwing trash into the sea.
Once a burst balloon ends in the water, turtles, whales and other sea creatures may ingest it and end up with blocked intestinal tracts. The string tied to the balloon may cause entanglement and death. No matter how biodegradable a material is deemed, these balloons are still pollutants once released into the air.
The Davao City council shares the same sentiments on balloons as they already passed an ordinance in April prohibiting the intentional release of balloons and sky lanterns. They took it a step further. Their penalties for violation are also steeper compared to the Puerto Princesa proposed ordinance.
On the national level, DENR called the attention of Okada Manila on its planned balloon drop for New Year. The planned 130,000 balloon drop was to break the current Guinness Book of World Records for the largest indoor balloon drop. DENR said it was a violation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003). Okada Manila decided to have a more environmentally sound New Year event. Internationally, more and more cities are already regulating or prohibiting the release of balloons. There are even some cities abroad that are looking into the ban of balloon sales altogether.
Balloons are usually released during celebrations and funerals. In fact, at the funeral of Sen Miriam Santiago, author of Senate Bill 2334 ( An Act Prohibiting the Release of Certain Balloons), 71 balloons and doves were released. Maybe her senate staff were not aware of the funeral plans.
The City Ordinance on regulating the use of single use plastics and this proposed ordinance on the release of flying balloons are both laudable moves from the City Council. One has to ask though, what about the enforcement? The City, much like the rest of the country, has many beautiful laws that are not enforced. The proposed balloon ordinance is tasking the barangay officials as implementing officials. One has to ask again, how much enforcement power does the barangay really have? Do they have the logistics needed to carry out the task before them? Come to think of it, many of our laws are brought down to the barangay for implementation.
It might be high time for the City Council to actually exercise its oversight powers on the ordinances that they pass. If passed, it would be a pity if this balloon ordinance would just end up like the many others before it. The intention is good, the text is good, but execution is poor.