LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines, June 1, 2012 (ENS) - As of June 1, commercial establishments across the province of Albay are forbidden to use plastic bags, styrofoam and other synthetic materials as packaging for goods sold to the public.
Located in the Bicol Region on southeastern Luzon island, Albay is the first province in Bicol to pass an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags and other synthetic materials that are harmful to the environment. Environmental protection is important in the province, which draws visitors to see the active Mayon volcano, situated 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the provincial capital, Legazpi City.
The ordinance was signed into law by Albay Governor Joey Salceda on February 21, 2011.
The ban took effect on Friday after the government lifted a one-year moratorium that was granted to allow commercial establishments in the 15 towns and three cities of the province to prepare for the ban.
The local enforcement agencies have met with owners of various commercial establishments to discuss the salient features of the new ordinance.
Proprietors of malls, groceries, food chains, drugstores, and mini-marts are publicizing the program through word of mouth. They have been advising customers to buy woven native bags called "bayongs."
The ordinance was formally publicized at the LCC Mall Activity Center in early May during a launch ceremony led by Governor Salceda and Vice Governor Harold Imperial together with the members of provincial board.
Arnold Embestro, who chairs the the provincial board's Committee on Environment, appealed to the public to shop with alternative bags made of paper, cloth, banana leaves and taro leaves, and other recyclable and environmentally-friendly materials.
The government recognizes that these plastic materials are not biodegradable and only decompose after about 400 years of harm to the environment.
If landfilled and burned, plastics infuse the air with toxic fumes. Or they may end up as litter contaminating waterways, river channels, parks, beaches, and streets.
"It has been more than half a century now since plastic was invented and became very much a part of our daily existence and everywhere you go today, you see plastic litter spoiling the scenery," Embestro told the "Manila Times" in May. "It is only now that we're realizing the devastating residual effect of our dependence on plastic products."
Stores that violate the new ordinance face fines ranging from P1,000 to P5,000 ($23 to $115) and the cancellation of their business permit.
Several cities in the Philippines, including the city of Las Pinas, have passed plastic bag bans and Philippine lawmakers are considering a ban covering the entire country. The Plastic Bag Regulation Act of 2011 was approved by the House of Representatives of the 15th Congress last September. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate but has not moved out of committee.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.