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Legarda: Enact Laws, Design Out Plastic Waste to Free our Rivers and Oceans from Plastic

June 16, 2021

House Deputy Speaker and Antique Representative Loren Legarda urged all sectors and stakeholders to implement ecological waste management and environmental protection laws in order to reduce plastic waste in our rivers, tributaries, and oceans, as well as to support the transition towards a circular economy to design out plastic waste out of our societal systems.

Legarda made the statement following the study by The Ocean Cleanup that identified 19 Philippine rivers among the world’s top 50 rivers that carry plastic waste into the oceans, with seven out of the top 10 plastic-emitting rivers coming from the Philippines, namely: Pasig River (1st), Tullahan (2nd), Meycauayan (5th), Pampanga (6th), Libmanan (7th), Rio Grande de Mindanao (9th), and Agno (10th).

The study also revealed that the Philippines is the world’s largest plastic-emitting country, with 356,371 metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste carried by its rivers into the ocean.

“Nakakahiya. Wasak na ang ating mga ilog, ang ating source of life. Para lang magkaroon tayo ng ideya kung gaano kalala ito—kung ang isang sako ng bigas ay 25 kilo, ang 356,371 toneladang plastik ay katumbas ng 14,254,840 sako ng bigas. Ganyan karaming plastik ang nagmula sa ating mga ilog papunta sa ating mga karagatan,” Legarda said.

“Hindi lang ito responsibilidad ng isang ahensiya ng gobyerno o ng isang local government unit, kailangan ang whole-of-society approach. Kailangan ng convergence, makipag-coordinate with the private sector at civil society organizations para makagawa ng detalyadong rehabilitation plan para bumalik ang sigla ng ating mga ilog at tributaries,” Legarda added.

Legarda said that the country’s plastic addiction has been unresolved for decades now. She noted that back when she was a broadcast journalist in 1988, she produced a documentary about the Pasig River and also covered stories about the Tullahan River and Laguna Lake. As legislator, she supported and sponsored the budget allocation for the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, filed the Laguna Lake Development Authority Act, and sought the adoption of the Integrated River System Management Approach.

The Deputy Speaker also said that the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which she authored, lays the foundation for proper waste segregation, recycling, and disposal that could have prevented this problem from happening. She also noted that the House Bill 9147 or the Single-Use Plastic Products Regulation Act recently approved on second reading, which she co-authored, intends to regulate unnecessary plastics to avoid more plastic waste, supports the development of more sustainable products and approaches, and promotes a circular economy and mindful consumption and production.

“This is a harsh reminder for us and our country that’s been blessed with nature’s bounty. We may have some of the best laws and policies in place to protect our environment, but if we will not correct our unsustainable behavior and practices, then our ecosystems and biodiversity will continue to degrade and even collapse,” Legarda said.

“It’s been said that there could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050 if we continue dumping plastic waste. For our country that heavily relies on fish for food and protein, do we really want that for our children and the generations to come? While we are in this pandemic that also gave rise to online shopping and delivery, all the more that we need to be more mindful of our consumption and to find ways to take out plastic waste in the picture,” Legarda concluded.##