MANILA -- Various environment groups are seeking a more comprehensive rehabilitation plan for Manila Bay.

The rehabilitation must go beyond cleaning Manila Bay and its tributaries as there is also a need to promote environment-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics, which are among the bay’s top pollutants, the groups noted.

"This is, for us, a very serious problem that needs to be confronted head-on and with much urgency as we see the Philippines and much of Southeast Asia becoming hot spots for plastics pollution," Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Saño said during a press conference aboard the environment group's iconic ship, Rainbow Warrior, at the Port of Manila on Friday.

He urged everyone to help address plastics pollution, noting that this problem can't be solved by one sector only.

"We need to hold hands, stand together with government and push all reforms we need to see, especially in the most important source of the problem, which is the corporate sector," he said.

According to Greenpeace, these reforms include reducing the production of single-use plastic products, such as packaging materials, by shifting to environment-friendly alternatives.

These alternatives may include installing stations where consumers can refill their reusable containers with goods they'll buy in quantities they want, Greenpeace noted.

"Corporations must also invest in alternative delivery systems for products," Greenpeace campaigner Abigail Aguilar said at the press conference.

The government's three-phased rehabilitation of Manila Bay covers the clean up of the water body and its tributaries, relocating informal settlers, and educating the public about solid waste management.

Aguilar said Greenpeace welcomes the government's initiative to rehabilitate Manila Bay but thinks “it's not totally solving the problem, which must be addressed at source."

She said Rainbow Warrior's visit to the Philippines this month is part of its 2019 “Ship the Plastic Back” international tour to promote Greenpeace's campaign against plastics pollution.
"The tour aims to emphasize corporations' role in plastics pollution," she said.

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives Asia Pacific regional coordinator Froilan Grate said the corporate sector must start looking into the problem.
He said although plastics pollution is very visible in the country, this crisis "started in boardrooms of companies that made the decision to dump products packed in single-use plastics."

However, there's no infrastructure to manage those plastics, he noted.

"We can't address the problem unless corporations that make products do their part as well," he said at the press conference.

Several LGUs in the country are already undertaking their respective zero waste projects, Grate said, adding that LGUs are able to manage up to 80 percent of wastes through the segregated collection of trash, composting, and recycling.

"Even with those best efforts, however, we're still left with 20 percent to 30 percent of really problematic products, which are mostly plastics that can't be composted," he said.

Break Free from Plastic Movement Asia Pacific regional coordinator Beau Baconguis said assuming that people are able to reduce the use of plastics, there's still about 20 percent residual waste that must be addressed accordingly.

"That's the responsibility -- supposedly -- of the corporate sector," she said, citing the need to examine the entire cycle of plastics production and not just its disposal aspect.

Earlier, Greenpeace said Rainbow Warrior will be at the Port of Manila on March 2-3 to accommodate the public.

Rainbow Warrior will also sail to Cebu, where it will be open to the public on Friday (March 15) and Saturday (March 16), noted Greenpeace.

People can board and see Rainbow Warrior for free, meet its crew and hear their stories, Greenpeace added. (PNA)