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Baguio Mayor Wins Merchants Over to Biodegradable Bags

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BAGUIO CITY, Philippines, October 8, 2012 (ENS) – Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan is proud of his beautiful city, high in the Philippine Cordillera on northern Luzon island, so he is putting his political muscle behind the city’s anti-plastic ordinance.

Nestled high in the mountains, Baguio survived a killer earthquake in 1990 to become the center of business, commerce and education on northern Luzon island and the seat of government of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Now, Mayor Domogan is asking Baguio’s 302,000 residents to use biodegradable plastic bags and to choose the traditional bayong, a bag woven of plant or other creative materials.

City officials have met with business establishments owners and proprietors, particularly grocery stores and stalls in the city’s sprawling public market, and asked them to provide biodegradable plastic bags to customers, the mayor said Saturday.

He said the business owners have agreed to use biodegradable plastic bags after distributing all the ordinary plastic bags they already have on hand.

Domogan said the use of biodegradable bags is a big help to ease the city’s garbage problem and to promote a better environment.

“Although the biodegradable plastic bag is more expensive compared to the ordinary bags, the use of it will help address the city’s garbage problem,” he said.

Biodegradable bags disintegrate into their base components, but to do so they need exposure to light, moisture, and oxygen; so degradation is slow in landfills.

Recognizing that biodegradable bags will not solve Baguio’s entire plastic garbage problem, Mayor Domogan also encouraged shoppers to return to “the old days” when they carried the traditional “bayong,” a hand-woven bag made of indigenous plant materials such as palm leaves.

Domogan said the bayong is a much better alternative to plastic bags because it is sturdier and it can be reused many times.

Sam Gallardo, a legal officer with the Department of Trade and Industry, said that the DTI is encouraging establishments across the region to promote “green consumerism.” This means fewer plastic bags and more alternative containers, such as eco-bags, bayong and biodegradable plastic bags to protect the environment.

Domogan and Gallardo made their case to the public as guests during the launching of the Consumer Welfare Month celebration at the Malcolm Square People’s Park in Baguio on Thursday.

A city ordinance banning the use of plastic bags passed here five years ago took effect in March 2012, prompting residents to pick up reusable and newly fashionable bayongs for shopping in city markets.

Passed in on June 25, 2007, Ordinance 26 prohibits supermarkets and groceries, as well as retail stores and small stalls in the city market from using plastic bags “for all dry goods and groceries.” The ordinance still allows the use of plastic bags for wet goods.

The obscure ordinance was almost forgotten until Vice Mayor Daniel Farinas reminded the city’s department heads of the law when it took effect in March.

“To be able to successfully launch and sustain an effective waste management program for the City of Baguio, sources of wastes should be properly looked into so as to control and regulate waste generation,” said the city council which approved the ordinance.

The ordinance requires shoppers to bring biodegradable shopping bags, “or other sturdy reusable shopping bags, boxes or crates,” when marketing.

Establishments issuing plastic bags will be subject to fines of P1,000 (US$24) for the first offense; P2,500 (US$60)for the second; and P5,000 (US$120) and suspension of business permit for three months for a third offense. The business permits of habitual offenders will not be renewed.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

Cover photo: Shoppers carry plastic bags through a Baguio market. (Photo by Alexander Laroco) http://www.flickr.com/photos/9044150@N06/589823033/. Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)