Dumaguete Youth to Lawmakers: Ban Plastic Bags Now

By Sherma E. Benosa

Hundreds of Dumaguete youth added their voice to the ongoing youth-initiated petition urging the countries’ lawmakers to pass a national ban on single-use plastics.

The call came during the 5th Zero Waste Youth Convergence held early this year at the Foundation University with nearly a thousand students from the local schools in attendance.

Started in 2017, the petition has thus far gathered nearly 40,000 signatures from students across the country.

“Plastic waste not only pollute the environment; they also pose health risks to humans and kill marine lives. Current estimates indicate that unless we act and change now, there would be more plastic than fish in our seas and oceans by 2050,” part of the petition reads.

The Dumaguete students likewise urged their local executives to implement the city’s regulation on plastic use. Passed in 2012, the ordinance was authored by Councilor Alan Gel Cordova, Vice Mayor Franklin Esmeña, Jr. and Councilor Manuel Arbon. However, enforcement is wanting.

“We are concerned with the growing amounts of plastic bags in our waste, filling up our dumpsites, clogging our canals, littering our beaches, and polluting the ocean. Plastic bags take hundreds of years to breakdown,” the students said in their petition.

In 2011, Senator Loren Legarda filed Senate Bill No. 2759 calling for the prohibition of the use of plastic bags in groceries, restaurants and other establishments and provision of corresponding penalties for violations thereof. The bill is still pending.

At present, hundreds of cities and municipalities have plastic bag ban or regulation, but enforcement is lax. A nationwide ban is seen to strengthen implementation.

Youth Taking Action

As they called for action from the local and national government, the youth have been busy doing their share in making Dumaguete a Zero Waste city.

Twelve-year-old Miguel Teves founded the Plastic Free Duma, an advocacy to stop using plastic. The group conducts beach cleanup on the shores of Dumaguete every Saturday. “We were on a vacation in Panglao Island (Bohol). Then I recognized the plastic. I decided to do something about it [if we do nothing] when we get older (the beaches) would be full of trash already. So I decided to put a stop to it,” he said.

The Plastic Free Duma started with Teves and his friends. Today, more people, young and old, have been involving themselves in the initiative.

Natalie Angeles and her friend Micah, meanwhile, launched the Keep It Topless initiative, a digital campaign that encourages people to not use the plastic lid of their cups when they go for drinks.

“It is a campaign to encourage people to not use plastic lid in their coffee cups. It’s one small step to encourage people to live a plastic-free lifestyle,” Angeles said.

A group of students from Silliman University have also been doing their part to make the city plastic free. They have been campaigning to food establishments to ditch the straws. Through their initiative, some establishments in the city have gone straw-free, including the Silliman University Cafeteria.

“These steps may be small things, but if all of us do our part, we will become part of the solution,” said Teves.

Sherma E. Benosa is the communications officer of GAIA Asia Pacific.