15 July 2018

The Philippines has been consistently in the top three contributors to marine plastic pollution since 2014 but the biggest sources come from multinational corporations overseas. If the Duterte government does not sanction, prohibit, or significantly limit the importation of excessive plastic-intensive products, then we are virtually doing nothing to address the issue.

A recent audit conducted by the Mother Earth Foundation and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives demonstrated that single-use plastic packaging of multinational corporations (MNCs) Unilever, Procter and Gamble, Nestle, PT Mayora, Colgate-Palmolive, and Coca Cola comprise 75 percent of the residual wastes they studied. Plastic food packaging makes an astonishing 79 percent of those residual wastes.

Recent proposed legislations for a national ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and single-use plastics are welcome indicators that our lawmakers are recognizing the gravity of the plastics pollution problem. The executive, meanwhile, is still missing the point by heavily focusing on changing consumer behavior. We need stronger action zeroed in on the biggest polluters in the production side.

The proliferation of plastics stems from the drive of the world’s biggest corporate manufacturers to earn as much profit as possible through the production and sale of cheap but pollutive plastic and plastic-wrapped products. The import-dependent and pre-industrial character of the Philippine economy makes us a prime destination of plastics waiting to become harmful waste. We have limited to no capability to sufficiently recycle them.

More sweeping and long-term measures should be adopted to help significantly trim down plastic pollution in the country. Tariffs and quotas may be levied on plastic and plastic-wrapped goods produced by multinational corporations. On the other hand, incentives should be given to local producers of goods that minimize or use eco-friendly alternatives as their containers or components.

The long-term encouragement, support, and development of a local, eco-friendly manufacturing industry would help provide cheaper and greener alternatives to the basic consumer goods we import. Local, cheaper plastics-free alternatives will enable a broader mass of the population to use these greener products, while at the same time producing jobs for the Filipino people.

We challenge President Rodrigo Duterte to see and take action on the bigger cesspool that is the entire Philippines’ plastics-saturated seas. Let’s see if Duterte’s self-declared war against tycoons and big businesses can stand up to the plastic MNCs.#

National Coordinator
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment