Easier said than done? Netizens discuss Duterte’s idea to ban single-use plastics

Pitching solutions to the country's plastic pollution problem isn't as straightforward as it seems.

During the 43rd Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, November 6, President Rodrigo Duterte floated the idea of banning single-use plastics.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo stated the ban would require “legislative action,” but could not give more details.

In 2015, the Philippines was listed as the 3rd largest contributor of plastic waste in oceans worldwide. Despite several efforts to curb plastic use, plastic pollution seems to be the most persistent problem many Philippine governments have tried to solve.

Here’s what Filipinos online said about the President’s possible ban on plastics.

Feasibility and alternatives

While netizens felt the possible ban was a step towards environmental progress, many were concerned about access to alternatives.

Netizen Jovy Estampador stated the ban would affect a lot of industries if no ready alternatives were proposed. Hindi porket may pronouncement ay mag celebrate na agad, he said.

(Just because there was a pronouncement it does not mean we should celebrate right away.)

Others believed it would be impossible to impose a total plastic ban altogether. Some netizens cited the country’s “sachet culture”, or the tendency to buy products in smaller packages to stretch a tight budget. A 2019 report from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives stated the average Filipino uses 591 sachets in just a year. While purchasing products in bulk may be more environmentally-friendly, not all Filipinos could afford to make the switch.

“I also know I can [reduce my single-use plastic consumption] because of my advantage to afford bulk buying or having reusable alternative,” Twitter user @lostmysoulinJP said.

A number of netizens also felt plastic use regulation or encouraging consumers to switch to reusable products was a more feasible approach.

Small-scale vs large-scale regulation

A number of netizens felt regulating plastic use has to go beyond legislation.

Much debate focused on how disciplining consumers and making changes in one’s lifestyle could be a more effective approach than imposing a total ban on plastics altogether.

On the other hand, netizens brought up the need to regulate corporations and manufacturers, to eradicate plastic in the market. Big names such as Mondelez International, Universal Robina Corp., and Coca-Cola ranked among the top sources of plastic waste in the country in 2018.

“What needs to happen are the corporations themselves need to clean up their act! Punishing consumers does nothing,” Twitter user @ChrisLafond10 said.

Another empty promise?

Although many netizens were pleased with the President’s plan, many were skeptical about its execution and whether or not Duterte would push through with implementing the ban.

A June 2019 Rappler report stated the President had several other unfulfilled promises, such as asserting the Hague ruling, fighting corruption, and shifting to federalism. Likewise, Duterte has previously issued orders only verbally, without any written document, which indicated lapses in accountability and transparency.

Due to this, Filipinos online were unsure if the President was serious about his plan to ban single-use plastics.

Some netizens even compared this to the executive order (EO) on the nationwide smoking ban Duterte signed in 2017. While the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) monitored the cities and municipalities who did not enforce the ban, the EO did not give the DILG any powers to admonish such local government units.

Mark Spencer compared the potential ban to the President’s drug war claim, as it was easier said than done.

Other netizens felt the plan was a form of “political deodorant”, or simply a ploy to distract the public from other pressing issues.

Lastly, the online debate would be incomplete without the jokes about banning the President and other “plastic” government officials themselves.

Here’s what other users had to say about the issue:

What are your thoughts on this plan? Sound off in the comments! – Rappler.com

Rappler is building a network of climate advocates, LGUs, corporations, NGOs, youth groups, and individuals for the #ManyWaysToZeroWaste campaign, a movement pushing for responsible ways to use and reduce plastic. Go here to know how you can help.

Gaby Baizas

Gaby Baizas is a digital communications specialist at Rappler. Journalism is her first love, social media is her second—here, she gets to dabble in both. She hopes people learn to read past headlines the same way she hopes punk never dies.