Message of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda on Wavemakers WednesdayApril 21, 2021
Message of House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda
Plastic and its Climate Impact
April 21, 2021
Magandang umaga, at isang luntiang Pilipinas sa inyong lahat!
First of all, let me thank Oceana and your partners for hosting this discussion. Thank you as well to all our speakers for sharing your thoughts and expertise on this very crucial issue faced by our country and our planet today.
Your discussion on the costs of a plastic planet is a timely reminder for us to stay mindful that climate change looms over the horizon as an even graver threat to humanity. And while it seems to be less urgent than the COVID-19 pandemic today, it is no less prevalent, and no less deadly. This threat does not only persist while we deal with a pandemic—in fact, there are indications that the current health crisis has already worsened the excessive use and thoughtless disposal of single-use plastics, including PPE like masks and gloves.
But the truth is, despite warnings, despite data, despite the science, it is often difficult to capture the public’s imagination when we talk to them about plastics and its impact. We keep telling people that the rate at which we are producing, using, and discarding single-use plastics is a serious cause for concern. The world produced 311 million tonnes of plastic in 2014, which is 20 times more than the 15 million tonnes we produced in 1964. The pace has been accelerating unsustainably: in 2017, we found out that we produced as much plastic in the past 13 years than we did in the previous half-century.At this rate, we will end up with more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, and with 12 billion tonnes of plastic litter in landfills and in the environment.
We could have at least taken comfort in knowing that the plastics we use are easily recyclable or biodegradable. But that is simply not the case: let us remember that two-thirds of all the plastic we have produced only ends up in the environment as marine debris, micro- or nanoparticles in air and land, microfibers in water supplies, or microparticles in the human body. Only 9% of the world’s plastic waste has ever been recycled; the rest just ends up in dumps, in landfills, or in our natural environment.
This is precisely why I think your discussion today is a very good contribution to our shared work for a plastic-free planet. It is when we look at the impacts on our lives and our surroundings—like you did by examining the plastic crisis in the context of our fisheries and marine habitats, of the lives and livelihood of our fisherfolk, and the future of our youth—that we get a better sense of what we are up against, how it impacts all of us, and why we must all heed the call to take urgent action.
It is also very interesting to see local movements to regulate and address single-use plastics. More than giving us a glimpse of workable models and best practices, your discussion is also a source of hope—that there are more of us working for a plastic-free Philippines, more of us willing to do our part through changing both personal lifestyles and broader policies, more of us recognizing the scale and the urgency of the problem we have to address even as we are trying our best to survive a pandemic.
My hope is that we leave this forum not just with a better sense of the plastic crisis, but with stronger resolve to reach more people, to take more decisive and ambitious action, to collaborate across many different sectors and disciplines. This is a problem of such a wide scale—and we will need even wider collaboration to solve it. We will need the active involvement of communities, the private sector, and the academe, with support from many different disciplines and areas of technical expertise.
If the communities, disciplines, and sectors bearing the brunt of the impact of plastic pollution and the climate crisis are the ones most effective in getting the message across, I believe they are also among those who are best fit to lead action. The challenge for us is to make sure the science reaches them, and that their experiences are captured in the science; to ensure they are equipped, empowered, and given ways to contribute in addressing the biggest crisis our planet is facing.
There is a lot of work ahead. An important part of what we are doing now is our push for a national ban on single-use plastics in Congress, which we hope will also gain stronger and more vocal public support. I know many of you also have your own ongoing advocacies and programs. I urge you to keep doing what you do; and where you can, to do more. Dahil magkakasama tayo, buo ang loob ko: magagawa nating luntian muli ang ating mundo at ang ating kapaligiran.
Thank you very much. Mabuhay kayong lahat!
 Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2016). The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/the-new-plastics-economy-rethinking-the-future-of-plastics
 The Atlantic. (2017). https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/07/plastic-age/533955/
 UN Environment Programme. (2018). Single-use plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability.