The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has called on the government, business sector and other stakeholders to work together to find the best solutions to plastic pollution, which has become one of the most serious threats to the health of oceans and a major hazard to marine biodiversity.

DENR Assistant Secretary and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Ricardo Calderon said that a stronger public-private partnership would help translate political and corporate commitment to address plastic pollution into tangible strategies and investible action plans.

“We urge everyone to join the pledge for our environment; a pledge that will institutionalize our collective and collaborative action towards addressing the issue of marine debris,” Calderon said at the culmination of the Month of the Ocean celebration held recentlyat The Peninsula Manila, with the theme “Free the Seas from Marine Debris.”

Calderon’s statement was in line with Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu’sprior call to the Filipinos to “cut down on the use of plastics that end up in the ocean and pose a threat to marine life.”

“The task of reversing this issue is as big and wide as the ocean, but small actions can make a huge difference,” Cimatu said.

A study conducted by the Ocean Conservancy, a US-based environmental advocacy group, revealed that eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year on top of the 150 million tons of plastic that already circulate in the ocean, contributing to loss of species and the contamination of the food chain.

Relatedly, Calderon said that marine plastic pollution is one of the latest and most alarming issues the world is facing with the Philippines as one of the major contributors to global problem, primarily due to its so-called “sachet economy” where companies are selling products in single-used plastic sachets.

While it was easy to resort to banning plastic sachets, Calderon noted that there are “economic implications” to such move that the stakeholders, particularly the government and businesses, should prepare for.

“As one of the fastest developing countries in the world, with more than 6.6 percent in terms of world trade, one of the drivers of economic growth is basically the sachet economy, the 3-in-1 packages, including the plastic straw, which is basically part of development,” he pointed out.

According to Calderon, committing to act on the issue of marine debris will also help prevent other sea animals from ingesting plastic. Recently, a baby rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) rescued in Palawan died after it had difficulty digesting when fed by rescuers in an attempt to save it. A tightly-packed garbage bag was later found stuck in its stomach which prevented the food to pass through.

Billions of plastic sachets are sold each year to get small quantities of personal care and food products, such as shampoo and soy sauce, to people mostly in emerging markets. These sachets are not recycled and many end up polluting the ocean.

This crisis urgently demands innovators, industry and governments to develop systemic solutions that prevent plastic from becoming waste in the first place.

Calderon expressed hope stakeholders would eventually “come up with a direction, a way forward on how we can address this problem without sacrificing development.” ###