Calamba: No to Plastic!

IN Laguna, with 26 municipalities and four cities and with over 2,473,530 in population (as of 2009), one city with 54 barangays stands tall. Calamba has made history by implementing Ordinance 10-481 prohibiting the use of plastic bags for dry goods and regulating its utilization for wet goods.

Calamba City Councilor Luis Vergel G. Baroro authored the ordinance with Councilor Jose Morel C. Manaig as co-author. The historic enactment happened in the middle of last year at the session hall of the new City Hall at Barangay Real.

The ordinance thus moves Calamba ahead of cities such as Sta. Rosa, Biñan and San Pablo. According to incumbent Vice Governor of Laguna Cesar Perez, he implemented a similar ordinance in Los Baños (where he was the mayor) and to succeed, he conducted various fora to show the benefits and advantages of using paper bags instead of plastics.

He said three months of mind-conditioning was the key to turn around Los Baños’ 14 barangays. Los Baños was declared as an “Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences Community” on March 17, 1982 by virtue of Executive Order No. 784 (Section 23) and was declared as a “Special Science and Nature City of the Philippines” through Presidential Proclamation No. 349 in recognition of its being a center for science and technology in the development of agriculture and preservation of the environment.

The Calamba ordinance cited Sec. 3(i) of R.A. 7160 which “provides that Local Government Units shall share with the National Government the responsibility in the management and maintenance of ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction.”

Sec. 447 (vi) of the same Republic Act (7160) “empowers the Sanggunian Panglunsod to protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment including such activities which results in pollution and acceleration of rivers and lakes or ecological imbalance.” The ordinance said the city government is spending a considerable amount of money for operational and maintenance expenses on waste disposal.

The ordinance said it “encourages the utilization of alternative packaging materials such as woven bags (bayong), baskets, cloth bags (katsa), paper bags and other similar materials (e.g banana leaves, taro leaves, etc).”

The Calamba City government is following the mandated ordinance and has already sent circulars to its residents. The ordinance provides that shops which will not make available paper bags to shoppers will be sanctioned.

SM Department Store has its own reusable bags program and promoting it with the help of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. Every Wednesday, all SM department stores are using paper bags and promoting the use of the reusable bags by their consumers.

Most residents of Calamba are not yet fully aware of the implications of the city ordinance and are asking for a widespread dissemination in their barangays. With more than 360,000 population, the city is a fast-growing community because of its technical parks, hot springs, resorts, and modest cost of living.

Already, the city’s Environmental and Natural Resources Officer is distributing signages and soliciting comments and suggestions. How far the ordinance will impact on the lives of Calamba people remains to be seen.