Philippines congress approves bill taxing single-use plastics to boost national waste infrastructure

PHILIPPINES – The Philippines’ lower house of Congress has approved taxing single-use plastics, following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s commitment to tackle ocean pollution.

The Senate must approve the tax measure before a reconciled bill is sent to Marcos for signature.

The tax is expected to raise 9.3 billion pesos (US$481 million) in revenues annually, which will be used to fund solid waste management projects.

The bill defines “single-use plastic bags” as “secondary level plastics made of a synthetic or semi-synthetic organic polymer such as ‘ice,’ ‘labo,’ or ‘sando’ bags, with or without handle, used as packaging for goods or products”.

A tax of 100 pesos (US$1.75) would be levied on firms for every kilogram of single-use plastics that they produce or import, and it would rise by 4% annually starting in 2026 to discourage usage and protect the environment.

“This tax can impact producers and importers, but they may not necessarily reduce production or importation,” Marian Ledesma, zero waste campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Greenpeace is concerned about the possible burden on people, as companies may pass on these costs to the consumers.”

The bill supports President Marcos’s promise to ‘clean up’ the country in his first speech after winning the presidency in May.

Roughly 80% of global ocean plastic comes from Asian rivers, and the Philippines alone contributes a third of that total, according to a 2021 report by Oxford University’s Our World in Data.

Single-use plastics are ubiquitous in the Philippines, which uses a staggering 163 million sachets a day, according to a 2016 study by the environment group The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

According to Albay Rep Joey Salceda, the Philippines is the third largest contributor to plastic pollution, with 2.7 million to 5.5 million metric tons of plastic waste generated each year. A fifth of this finds its way into the ocean.

Revenues from the tax shall be allocated to programs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 9003, otherwise known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, in municipalities.

“Ideally, the local governments implementing the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) on the ground will receive support to effectively execute measures such as segregation at source, waste characterization, composting and source reduction,” concludes Ledesma.

“Composting and segregation at source are particularly crucial as 52% of the Philippines’ waste is biodegradable (e.g., food waste, garden waste), and other types of waste may be reused, refurbished or recycled appropriately if segregated properly.”

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