Pena: DENR reacts on river plastic pollution

MY COLUMN last June 25 was about the study entitled “Where does the plastics in our ocean come from,” which claims that more than one-third of the global plastic waste in the ocean comes from the Philippines. The study was published online at It also mentioned that seven of the world’s top 10 polluting rivers are from the Philippines.

Reacting to this study, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny D. Antiporda said that the study, which used a probabilistic approach and was based on secondary studies, did not reflect the actual condition of the rivers. Whether true or not, it gives the Philippines a very bad image as the world’s top plastic polluter of oceans.

Usec. Antiporda said the agency has long been undertaking preventive measures and rehabilitation efforts in the different river systems in the country, including the Pasig River. The Pasig River was listed in the study as the top plastic polluter of oceans. Even prior to the publication of the said study, the DENR has already launched various efforts on environmental protection and conservation under Secretary Roy Cimatu's leadership, Usec. Antiporda added.

The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, or RA 9003 was supposed to address the proper management of garbage. Was it properly implemented or enforced? House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda wants to know. She filed a resolution to investigate and audit the National Solid Waste Management Commission's (NSWMC) and relevant government agencies on the implementation of RA 9003.

Specifically, Rep. Legarda wants to know why in spite of its big budget, the commission has unjustifiably failed to act on its ministerial function of preparing the list of NEAPP (non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging) in the last 20 years.

Under Sections 29 and 30 of RA 9003, the NSWMC is tasked with preparing a list of NEAPP a year after the law’s effectivity and to review and update this list annually. It should also determine a period to phase out these products. In February this year, the commission approved the first two NEAPP - plastic soft drink straws and plastic coffee stirrers.

The alleged failure to perform this mandate is also the reason why the conservation group Oceana Philippines and environmental law groups want to sue the NSWMC and representatives of its member-agencies for “gross and persistent negligence.”

As early as 2006, the NSWMC has already created a technical working committee for the phasing out of NEAP, but the commission has taken 20 years before it could even identify only two products. Furthermore, resolution is said to be replete with deficiencies. The products will phased out a year from the publication of the official resolution. Oceana, however, said that upon checking with the University of the Philippines Law Center, no such resolution has yet been filed.

Aside from filing civil, administrative and criminal cases before the courts, the groups were exploring other legal remedies, such as the writ of kalikasan and writ of continuing mandamus.


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