Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has been resolute in engaging communities towards environmental activism which is summed up in his advocacy campaign “Ikaw, Ako, Tayo ang Kalikasan”. Recently there has been an increasing number of individuals, civil society and local government units who have responded to this call to action.
One of these is the LGU of Paranas in Samar which enacted Municipal Ordinance No. 38 series of 2019 or “An Ordinance Prohibiting and Regulating the Use of Plastics for Goods and Commodities that End Up as Residual Waste and Promoting the Use of Eco Bags and Other Environment Friendly Practices as Alternative.” Those found in violation of the ordinance shall be penalized with Php500.00 for first time offenders or to render some form of community service. The amount doubles up in the subsequent violations. Business establishments who violate the ordinance faces the prospect of non-renewal of their license to operate.
“It was not easy and we expect more challenges ahead. To be inclusive, we involved everyone through public hearings before the ordinance was passed to hear the sentiments of the constituents. There were oppositions but we stood our ground though it was not a popular decision. We are convinced that we have the legal basis and that it is the only way to prevent the ever-increasing volume of plastic wastes on the streets, backyards and even along the coastline,” reveals Atty. Eunice Babalcon, Municipal Mayor of Paranas.
She further reiterated that any program on solid waste management will not succeed without the support of the people, especially the will of the barangay officials. And when it was rolled out to the barangays, the people understood it perfectly as being mandated by law under R.A 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act that has been in existence for years but many refuse to implement simply because it is difficult. “It is the only way forward for Paranas-on and it entails behavioral changes or transformation from the people,” added Atty. Babalcon.
The persistence of LGU of Paranas is now paying off. The people are already accustomed to the ordinance and it is becoming more of a habit. Neighboring LGUs are also following their steps with the LGU of Motiong implementing an identical ordinance just recently and then the LGU of San Sebastian already made a commitment to make their own ordinance against plastic pollution.
As the campaign of the LGU of Paranas to reduce, if not eliminate, plastic pollution gains momentum, DENR Regional Executive Director Tirso P. Parian, Jr. says “this is indeed a testament that the DENR alone cannot fulfill its mandate if it will not have the support of the local government units, business sector and all other stakeholders.”
“We commend this initiative of the LGU of Paranas along with other LGUs who have their own local ordinances in support of a cleaner and healthier environment for their constituents. In the face of growing environmental challenges, we are constantly reminded that it is everyone’s responsibility to protect the environment,” RED Parian says.