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Wednesday, July 25, 2012
YES, it’s fine. Or to be more precise, it’s fine to fine the violators.
The Bacolod City Government will enforce City Ordinance 562, series of 2011 that bans the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags. Zero hour will be on November 9, 2012, a year after the ordinance published.
First-time offenders will be fined P1,000 and confiscation of plastic bags. Repeat offenders for the second and third time will be fined P3,000 with confiscation of plastic bags; and P5,000 and imprisonment of not more than six months upon the discretion of the court. In the case of the business establishment, the punishment is cancellation of its business operation for a year.
Plastics are widely used to store and package foods and beverages, cooking and food storage that carry health risks, especially when hormone-disrupting chemicals from some plastics interact with heated foods. This is common practice to use plastic, especially among food takeouts casing everything including soft drinks. Think cancer.
The ordinance blames plastic bags—being non-biodegradable—for clogging canals, creeks and other waterways causing floods during the rainy season.
CO 562, series of 2011 in its desire to prohibit the use of plastic film bags as packaging materials, encourages the use of alternative packaging materials such as woven bags, cloth bags, paper bags, and other similar materials, and promote the redefined acronym BYOB (bring your own bag). BYOB used to be “bring your own baon.”
Excluded from the ban are biodegradable plastic bags that shall, within 24 months after its use, have a 60 percent biodegradation when organic carbon is converted to carbon dioxide without leaving significant harmful residues.
I have to congratulate Councilors Em Legazpi Ang and co-authors Homer Bais, Mona Dia Jardin, Roberto Rojas, Al Victor Espino and Caesar Distrito for the draconian measure.
“We are proud to say that Bacolod will join the ranks of a few cities all over the country that bans the use of plastic bags as a deterrent of climate change,” Distrito bragged.
I can concur on that. If anything, Bacolod and Negros Occidental have ordinances that environmentally conscious activists and consumers that can act as pillars of a green economy.
My problem though is not the local laws. It is their enforcement.
We are now smack in the middle of the rainy season. The floods—once unknown over a decade ago—are the urban woes that make walking and crossing along Bacolod streets feel like being transported to España Street at the height of typhoons.
So City Hall bought a P21.8-million sewer jet which will be used by the city to unclog the drainage systems for its flood control program.
So fine, I have nothing against the use of technology to solve ecological problems. But will technology signal that our local government has given up on littering? That it cannot compel Bacoleños to clean up their act?
And since there is a technological fix for solving our clogged drainages, can many Bacoleños go on with their utterly irresponsible ways of disposing their plastic wastes? After all, they can expect our local government to clean up their mess. So much for the polluter will pay principle.
By the way, since biodegradable plastic bags are exempted from the ban and fine, can we expect their continued and perhaps their irresponsible waste disposal? After all, biodegradation takes place after a year. In the meantime, one-time use of biodegradable plastics will be simply that—plastics that can clog our drainages.
Will the strict enforcement of fines compel our consumers to change their irresponsible behavior? Judging from the unenforced anti-littering ordinances, frankly, I’m NOT holding my breath.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 25, 2012.