OFFICIALS from the Mandaue City Environment Resource Office (MCENRO) acknowledged that despite widespread enforcement, certain businesses in the city continue to disregard the city's plastic ban legislation.

Mark Oplado, focal person of MCENRO's Monitoring and Enforcement Unit (MEN), explained to SunStar Cebu on Friday, June 2, that small enterprises, sari-sari stores, and vendors in the public markets may not have been familiar with the city's regulations.

The city’s plastic bag prohibition ordinance was enacted into a law in 2010 requiring the use of paper bags, cloth bags, eco-bags and reusable bags in business establishments, including restaurants and sari-sari stores, except for those selling wet goods and construction materials.

Violators will be fined P500 or an imprisonment of up to five days or both depending on the court's discretion.

But the fee was doubled in 2018 when the ordinance was amended.

When the ordinance underwent its final modification in 2021, the use of plastic straws was outlawed and the penalty was cut back to P500.

Oplado mentioned information, education, and communication (IEC) programs, enforcement, monitoring, and providing eco-bags to most commercial businesses as some of the interventions they arranged to raise people's knowledge of the legislation.

"The office involves stakeholders, especially commercial enterprises in implementing the ordinance. The office actively and passively enforced the ordinance using our deputized eco-enforcers. In order to maximize the city's anti-littering ordinance into effect, the office also worked with the Mandaue PNP (Philippine National Police)," said Oplado.

According to data provided by MCENRO to SunStar Cebu, there has been a decline in the number of people receiving tickets for violating the ordinance, from 321 in 2017 to 283 in 2018, to zero in 2022.

Michael Edrial, Supervising Environmental Management Specialist, said the Covid-19 pandemic also contributed to the decline in the plastic materials utilized between 2020 and 2022.

He, however, stressed that it may be too early to declare the impact of the ordinance's implementation.

Councilor Jennifer Del Mar, chairperson of the Committee on the Environment, said they are yet to discuss whether they will increase the penalty.

Some sari-sari store owners expressed disagreement should the penalty be increased again to P1,000.

Sel (not her real name), a 45-year-old resident of Barangay Subangdaku, argued against raising the fee and questioned how she could continue to support herself if all of the about P500 in earnings from her sari-sari store went toward paying the charge.

Another sari-sari store owner, Donald, said the city government should focus instead on proper waste segregation, adding that the use of plastic materials cannot be avoided.

"Dili malikayan makagamit jud tag plastic kay paper bag magisi man dayun. Aku lang jud ilabay ug tarung sa basura nya separate sa mga malata ug d malata," said Donald.

(It's inevitable to use plastic because paper bags are easily torn apart. I just throw them properly in the trash and separate the biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes). (HIC)