On and off.
This is how the local government of Quezon, Palawan had imposed its anti-plastic law. Even with an ordinance in effect since 2016, it was implemented, stopped, and then implemented again over the next four years.
In December 2016, the municipal council of Quezon first approved the ordinance that aimed to ban the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam in the town. It was not until 2020 that it would see proper and serious implementation, as it was held in abeyance during the last quarter of 2018 due to “public complaints.”
But not only does the ordinance ban the use of plastics; it also bans the making of them within the town’s jurisdiction.
“Napakainit ‘yan noong inimplement, daming nagalit…sabi nila, ‘Kagawad kung iba-ban mo yung plastics, dapat iba-ban mo rin yung manufacturing,’” said Councilor Victor Emmanuel “Nong” Catingub, main author of the ordinance.
Data from Quezon’s municipal environment and natural resources office (MENRO) showed that between 2016 and 2018, 32 percent of the four tons of waste collected in the town daily are plastics. This makes plastics the town’s most major source of solid waste.
As Quezon is home to many caves and other natural wonders, plastic and Styrofoam bags may pose a threat to these. It was then seen fit to make a local law banning them.
No progress reports
When it was first implemented in 2016, the plastic ban was a gradual process. Over the past two years, information campaigns were intensified in the town to make residents aware of the new ordinance.
At the same time, business establishments that had already been using plastics also asked for a grace period for their “sando” bags to be totally used up.
“2017 nag-start na ‘yung campaign namin tungkol dyan, nagpaprint kami nung aming IEC materials, so pagka-2018 sana, nag-attempt kami na i-implement na siya pero nagbigay ng leeway yung local chief executive kasi maraming mga tindahan na malaki pa yung stocks nila…pinaubos na lang yung mga plastic nila na yun, 2020 pa sya narealize talaga,” Esperanza Caabay, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office Head said during an interview.
MENRO had reported that over the past four years, there were no recorded violations of the plastic ban.
However, no progress reports on the ordinance’s implementation have been filed, either.
‘More serious implementation’ hoped
As far as business establishments in Quezon are concerned, the problem in the implementation also lies with the customers themselves.
“Willing naman kaming sumunod…, may mga time lang talaga na hindi lahat talaga nakakaunawa…kaiinisan ka pa nila,” ACC Paper House owner Charlet Callanga said.
While the plastic ban penalizes the use of plastic bags, the ordinance also mandates residents to use alternatives for buying essentials, such as reusable bags, native baskets, and woven and cloth bags.
With the plastic ban in place again, some residents hope that their fellow consumers will be more responsible.
“Sa akin naman mas okay siya kasi mas nali-lessen ang mga kalat… tinuturuan para maging responsable tayo,” Aleth, 21, said.
For 66-year-old Patricia Baron, it will only be a matter of time before Quezon locals adjust to the new ordinance.
“Sa tao nalang yan, masanayan mo na rin yan, okay naman, tingnan mo walang nagakalat na mga plastic… yung tao masasanay na magdala sila ng sarili nilang lalagyan,” she said.
Quezon is just one of at least 20 cities and provinces in the Philippines that have implemented a plastic ban in an attempt to save the environment. Among these places are San Carlos City in Negros Occidental, Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, and their neighboring island province Siquijor.
But as for Quezon resident Rolando Gallardo, 46, he hopes the local government will be serious in imposing the town’s anti-plastic ordinance this time around.
“Ewan ko… wala rin namang nangyari tapos nabalik na naman ang plastic, ngayon na naman ang inulit nila. Kung magpapatupad sila, talagang siguruhin na nila,” he said.
This story was written by Ronalyn Manlugon as a final output for AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Program – An Intensive Virtual Environmental Journalism Training for young writers and journalists.