PARANAS, Samar — It may be a small municipality with a small population, but this Samar town is taking the lead in Eastern Visayas in reducing residual waste by banning the use of plastic bags in the market and grocery.
It may not have been a popular move in the face of stiff opposition from the residents who have been used to the convenience of having sando bags to wrap fish or meat at the market, but local chief executives think real environmentalism is not easy either.
“It was not easy and we expect more challenges ahead,” says Paranas Mayor Eunice Babalcon. “There were oppositions but we stood our ground though it was not a popular decision.”
Late last year, the town passed a municipal ordinance prohibiting the use of plastics “for goods and commodities that end up as residual waste” and at the same time promoting the use of eco bags and other environment friendly practices as alternative.
The ordinance carries a penalty of P500 or community service for first offenders and double up in subsequent violations. Business establishments who violate the ordinance faces the prospect of non-renewal of their license to operate.
Balacon said the ordinance went through a number of public consultations before it was passed to make sure that the constituents are aware and that they understand why it has to be passed. The consultations also provided the local government unit the chance to hear the side of all the sectors that will be affected before a final decision is made.
“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,” Babalcon said.
She said the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act has been in existence for many years but local government units (LGU) were having difficulty implementing it on the ground primarily due to lack of political will especially that banning plastic also entails changes in behavior.
“It is the only way forward for Paranas-on and it entails behavioral changes or transformation from the people,” added Babalcon.
The persistence of the LGU of Paranas is now paying off. The people are already accustomed to the ordinance and it is becoming more of a habit, she said.
The local ordinance is already gaining momentum that even its neighboring towns of Motiong and San Sebastian have implemented similar ordinance or have committed to make their own ordinance against plastic pollution.
Recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional director Tirso Parian, Jr. commended initiative of Paranas town to eliminate plastic pollution.
“We commend this initiative of the LGU of Paranas along with other LGU 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,” Parian said.