MANILA — Following announcements that it will ban single-use plastics in the city, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Thursday pointed out that the local government will also be banning paper bags in two years.
“Middle of February is the implementation of the single use plastic ban,” Belmonte said of the local ordinance she had recently signed. She said it will give establishments time to adjust and find suppliers.
“But the ban on plastic bags, single use plastic bags that we used to pay P2 for in malls, by January that will be banned. And that was agreed upon by all the establishments,” Belmonte told reporters at the sidelines of a forum on the environment and circular economy.
She further pointed out that by two years, they will also be banning paper bags, which have become an alternative for the plastic bags in supermarkets.
“Our goal is to reduce wastage. We want you to get used to bringing your recyclable bag every time you go to the market,” she said.
“Two years is a long time. You can adjust,” she said.
Environmental groups have recently criticized companies for replacing plastic with either paper or so-called biodegradable plastic, which are both still detrimental to the environment. They have called on the public to refuse single-use packaging regardless of its material.
Belmonte said two years should be enough for Quezon City residents to get used to the ordinance.
“It’s a matter of changing behavior and that takes time,” she said.
Among the immediate changes that the public can expect are the phasing out of single-use plastics in hotels, especially small bottles and sachets of toiletries.
Belmonte admitted that the P5,000 fine for third-time offenders can easily be paid by businessmen but she added, “I am not afraid to revoke business permits if they don’t want to follow the laws of our city.”
The city mayor also revealed that the fees collected from plastic bag users in groceries have not been fully used for environmental projects.
She said it had just accumulated, to about P300 million to P400 million, prompting the Commission on Audit to suggest that the local government take over the implementation of projects.
“It will be placed in a trust fund for the environment and the city will determine where to use the money,” she said.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who was also at the forum, said they are still studying banning single-use plastic as “an option.”
He said they will focus on implementing environmental laws in the meantime.
During the forum, Moreno said there is actually no need for additional laws.
“I don’t think there are more laws needed to address this problem. In fact, we have enough,” he said of the environmental woes of Metro Manila.
Instead, he said the legislative branch of government should use its oversight powers to check if laws are being implemented properly.
Environmental groups have been calling on the government to implement a nationwide ban on single-use plastic. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who also attended the Stratbase Group forum, said his agency will soon come up with a department order on the use of plastic. However, he did not discuss whether the order meant a plastic ban or just regulate its use.