Congress clears report on firms’ duty over plastic goods

THE CONGRESS has ratified a consolidated version of a bill seeking to cut the Philippines’ plastic footprint by holding enterprises accountable for the life cycle of their plastic products.

The bicameral conference committee report extending producer responsibility (EPR) on plastic products adopted both House Bill 10696 and Senate Bill 2425 as a working draft.

“The proposed legislation focuses on waste reduction, recovery and recycling, and the development of environment-friendly products that advocates the internationally accepted principles on sustainable consumption and production, circular economy, and producers’ full responsibility throughout the life cycle of their products,” said Senator Cynthia A. Villar, primary sponsor of the bill, in her speech.

“The EPR Act, mandates large enterprises, also referred to as obliged enterprises, to establish or phase-in EPR programs for the plastic packaging of their products in order to efficiently manage the plastic packaging waste and reduce the production, importation, supply or use of plastic packaging deemed low in reusability, recyclability or retrievability; and achieve plastic neutrality through efficient recovery and diversion schemes,” she added.

The said enterprises may voluntarily organize themselves to form or authorize a producer responsibility organization (PRO) to establish a viable platform to implement their EPR program.

Ms. Villar said that the target dates for the recovery of plastic product footprint generated are as follows: 20% for the end of 2023; 40% for 2024; 50% for 2025; 60% for 2026; 70% for 2027; and 80% for 2028; and every year thereafter.

The obliged enterprises must also establish and implement an auditing system to monitor and assess their compliance performance. An independent third-party auditor must certify the veracity of the report using standards established by the department.

The National Solid Waste Management Commission will be composed of eight members from appropriate government offices and five from the private sector. The latter will be represented by three non-government organizations with expertise in solid waste management; a representative from the recycling, composting or resource recovery and processing industry; and a representative from the manufacturing industry, packaging industry or obliged producers.

Under the commission, a national ecology center will also be established to provide technical expertise, information, training and network services. The center must maintain a multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary pool of experts.

Monetary and fiscal rewards, as well as  recognition, will be given to individuals, private organizations and entities, obliged enterprises, PROs, and nongovernment organizations that implement “outstanding and innovative projects, technologies, processes and techniques or activities in reuse, recycling and reduction.”

Meanwhile, obliged enterprises that fail to comply with the law can be fined at most P20 million and an automatic suspension of business permit until the requirement of the law is fulfilled.

The proposed law will be reviewed by Congress after five years to study its effectiveness, as well as the performance and compliance of implementing agencies and obliged enterprises.

A joint oversight committee with five lawmakers each from both houses of Congress will monitor the implementation of the act.

The bill will now be sent to the presidential palace for the signature of President Rodrigo R. Duterte. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan