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Philippine Island Tackles the Plastic Crisis Head-On, Sets Example for the Global Plastics Treaty Negotiations

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Nairobi, Kenya – As the third intergovernmental negotiations (INC-3) on plastic pollution go underway in Nairobi, Kenya; delegates and environmental advocates are made aware of the island Province of Siquijor in the Philippines as a success story in the global fight against plastic pollution and as a reminder for the need for a strong global treaty to address plastic pollution beyond local actions.

Known for its stunning scenery and attracting a significant number of tourists annually, Siquijor has not been immune to the environmental impact of plastic pollution. However, in 2017, the government embarked on a mission to combat this issue head-on. Collaborating with organizations such as the Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) Philippines and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, they reached out to various sectors, launched informative campaigns, and implemented laws banning styrofoam products while regulating the use of other single-use plastics (SUPs).

During a Global Plastics Treaty side event, “Visions for an Ambitious and Just Treaty” organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies in Nairobi, Vice Governor Dr. Mei Ling Quezon-Brown of Siquijor Island highlighted the success of the island’s efforts in combating the plastic crisis. Emphasizing the significance of local solutions, Quezon-Brown pointed out that the island’s initiatives are anchored in national policies, such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Republic Act No. 11038, laws that mandate proper solid waste management and the protection of designated areas.

Quezon-Brown emphasized the initiation and subsequent extensions of the No Single-Use Plastic Provincial Ordinance, emphasizing the island’s dedication to comprehensive solutions. The ordinance signifies a proactive measure in tackling the plastic problem locally, aligning seamlessly with broader national policies.

The Province has made remarkable strides, achieving proper waste segregation for the whole island and an impressive 58% waste diversion rate achieved through composting and recycling. As a tangible result of these efforts, waste collection frequency has been significantly reduced, reflecting a substantial decrease in plastic waste.

She states, “At the core of Siquijor’s initiative is the passion and dedication of the Provincial Zero Waste Task Force leaders, who have undergone capacity-strengthening training and advocacy for improved working conditions. The establishment of the Waste Workers Association solidifies its pivotal role in the island’s Zero Waste initiatives.”

The success story of Siquijor also unfolds through multi-stakeholder collaboration, exemplified by the Siquijor Provincial Zero Waste Management Council and partnerships with civil society organizations through the Provincial Zero Waste Task Force. Together, these collaborations have played a crucial role in implementing effective solid waste management plans.

Sustainable interventions, such as the introduction of innovative reuse systems and the establishment of pilot Zero Waste stores and eateries, underscore the island’s commitment to fostering a culture of sustainability and environmental responsibility.

The urgency of the global plastic crisis is not lost on Siquijor Island. Recognizing the interconnected nature of environmental issues, the island advocates for a comprehensive approach.

With Siquijor Island’s multi-stakeholder approach as an example, Vice Governor Quezon- Brown stresses, “Active participation in the ongoing Global Plastics Treaty negotiations reinforces the island’s commitment to seeking legally binding solutions, including a total ban on SUPs and increased promotion of Reuse and Refill systems. We have the solutions. We didn’t start the plastic crisis, but together we can end it.”

As a pioneer member of the Zero Waste Cities Network, Siquijor Island extends an invitation to all other cities and INC-3 delegates to embrace similar initiatives. The island acknowledges that the battle against plastic pollution is a collective endeavor that requires global cooperation and a paradigm shift towards real Zero Waste solutions.

“May the success of Siquijor Island inspire governments to invest in real solutions in tackling the plastic crisis. However, we hope it will also be a timely reminder for all that while real solutions are already happening – the problem is much bigger and urgent that only an ambitious global plastics treaty could address,” says Froilan Grate, Director of GAIA Asia Pacific.

He adds, “These local solutions should be supported, but we need to ensure that we are addressing the systemic problems, including the unabated production of plastics. Otherwise, Siquijor and other islands and cities will continue to bear the brunt of both the impact of plastic pollution and the cost of managing it. The Global Plastics Treaty should ensure that the burden and cost of managing plastic pollution is borne by those most responsible for it – the plastic-petrochemical companies and the fast-moving consumer goods companies .”