BEFORE 2021 ended, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a writ of kalikasan and a writ of continuing mandamus directing the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) and its member agencies to implement measures to curb plastic pollution. The high court issued the two writs in a resolution dated December 7.

A writ of kalikasan is aimed to provide a stronger protection of environmental rights in order to accord an effective and speedy remedy where the constitutional right to a healthful and balance ecology is violated and address any possible large-scale ecological threats. The party seeking the issuance of a writ of kalikasan must demonstrate that a particular law, rule, or regulation was or would be violated by the respondent.

A writ of continuing mandamus on the other hand is a writ issued by a court in an environmental case directing any agency or instrumentality of the government or officer thereof to perform an act or series of acts decreed by final judgment which shall remain effective until judgment is fully satisfied.

A well known writ of continuing mandamus is the SC Mandamus on Manila Bay (G.R. 171947-48) issued on Dec. 18, 2008. It directed 13 government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters to SB level to make them fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation. To date, the 13 government agencies led by the DENR are still in the process of complying with the SC’s order.

This newly issued continuing mandamus compels the NSWMC to list banned plastic products. The petitioners, which includes former Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, accused the NSWMC of failing to implement RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. One of the provisions of RA 9003 is the preparation of a list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (Neapp) within a year of the approval of the measure. It was only in February last year that two products were declared as Neapp by the NSWMC. These are plastic stirrers and plastic straws.

The two writs are not yet final because the respondents were given the chance to comment on the petition before the Court of Appeals.

Plastic pollution is a complicated issue. Like the Manila Bay mandamus which is already more than 10 years old and has not been fully complied with, I expect this new writ to also take many years to comply with.

There are however other moves to address plastic pollution. One bill seeking to phase-out single use plastics was already approved in the House of Representatives. A similar bill should be passed in the Senate for it to be passed into law. But with the coming campaign period and only 5 months left in their term of office, there might not be enough time to do it.

Another is a House Bill which seeks to institutionalize Extended Producers Responsibility on Plastic Packaging Waste which is still in the committee level. There was suppose to be a Committee hearing last January 12, 2022 but was postponed due to the current Covid surge.