A call for sustainability

Speech calling for the promotion of sustainability practices in the Senate

We recently passed Republic Act No. 11898, otherwise known as the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) Act of the EPR, which amends the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, requiring large-scale enterprises to recover the plastic packaging wastes they produce.

The sponsor of the measure, Sen. Cynthia Villar, is here. I mentioned to her that I will be delivering this speech and, of course, the original sponsor of the law, RA 9003, the Solid Waste Management Act, is no other than Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda.

I also authored and sponsored a law requiring that it is taught in school, and it is included in the curriculum, for the students to understand the importance of the environment, and this be tailored to the particular areas where they live.

In the hearing on the EPR, DENR stated that 21 million tonnes of solid waste was generated in 2019. 21 million tonnes. About 10.55% of this are plastics.

Sen. Villar, in her opening statement, said almost 164 million pieces of sachets are used in the Philippines daily, equating to around 59.7 billion pieces of sachets yearly. Wow, that’s overwhelming. Nung bata ako, and umamin kayo ng edad niyo, wala namang sachet. Kapag pumunta ka sa tindahan, ang meron naman doon, garapon, tapos sa loob ng garapon, andoon ang kailangan mo. Iisa-isa. Ngayon, uso na si sachet.

Sen. Villar further stated that the amount of wastes in the country has reached 18.05 million tonnes, with Metro Manila contributing 26% of this waste generation. She further states, our wastes are composed of the following:

•50% are biodegradable, in a sense that is good news, we just have to segregate that better;
•15% are plastics;
•15% are paper; and
•20% are miscellaneous

Alright. With this data, let’s now look inward and ask ourselves, what can we do in our own institutions, in our work-home, to address this?

Dear colleagues, we don’t just suddenly wake up to a sustainable lifestyle. This happens, and I am now calling the attention of the athletes in the Senate, which include the birthday boy, Majority Floor Leader Sen. Joel Villanueva, the Chairman of the Committee on Finance Sen. Sonny Angara, ang ating mga avid basketball players, being able to play well on the court, in the field, doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with day-to-day habits, day-to-day changes which may seem small at first but collectively and overtime, they result in big changes.

As your Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, it is my duty to bring the concept of sustainability into the discussions and debates every day. We should take sustainability in consideration in how we work and conduct business in the Senate, and ideally outside of the Senate as well.

Also, I’d like to introduce the concept of intergenerational fairness, where we put ourselves 20-30 years or more into the future. There is a country… they look at intergenerational fairness 7 generations away. Ako nga sabi ko nga, kahit 20-30 years happy na ako. We look into the future and prepare for a future that the next generation will thank us for. And our laws must reflect this.

So what have we done in the Senate? In 2010, upon my initiative and in partnership with a non-governmental office, Mother Earth Foundation, we created a Materials Recovery Facility, which was set up in the Senate parking lot. For those who don’t know, a Materials Recovery Facility takes the place of a dump. In other words, in that facility, sine-segregate. So if you look closely at the photos, and maybe next time, I will ask instead of a collage, separate photos to see clearly, segregated are the PET bottles, cartons, papers, and other types of trash that come out of our offices, dear colleagues. These come out of our offices. Hindi ito galing sa ibang lugar. These came out of our offices noong 2010. I doubt if there is much difference, umiinom pa rin tayo ng tubig, gumagamit pa rin tayo ng papel, so malamang, ganoon pa rin yun.

But the good news is, after this was created in 2010, and this included a program that allowed us to comply, we had a no waste segregation, no collection policy, which means kung hindi tayo mag-segregate sa kanya-kanyang opisina natin, hindi iko-collect ang basura. The result was amazing. It resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the solid waste generated by the Senate, as reported by the General Service Department one month after. The frequency of hauling services was also reduced from once a week to once every two weeks, twice a month na lang naghahakot sa atin. So nabawasan ang contribution ng basura natin sa Pilipinas.

In the 18th Congress, I also held hearings on SDG 12, on responsible consumption and production, before the pandemic. The idea was to explore solutions on reducing plastic wastes and other wastes. As I said, the EPR is now a law, and although the focus is on the responsibility of large producers that use plastic packaging such as sachets, food containers, single-use plastics, including plastic bags, straws, cutlery and more, as the sponsor of the measure, Sen. Villar said, this does not prevent the medium and small sized companies from embarking on the same measure to contribute to a better country, a better planet.

So this is where the challenge lies, dear colleagues. Paano naman tayo? Paano naman ang contribution natin? This is something that we need to think about and that is the subject of my privilege speech. Especially during the time of COVID, dumami talaga ang single-use plastic, pati ang mga take out containers and mga COVID-related wastes. The medical waste created by COVID should really be the subject of another speech. I’d be happy to deliver it, unless somebody else would like to do that. During the pandemic, I also raised the issue of improper disposal with DENR. So like I said, we can talk about this another time.

So, one of the first manifestations I made in the 18th Congress is to return to the better practices that we initiated in 2011, and this includes, among many others, going paperless. So dear colleagues, I will illustrate for you…

I’ll put on the record, Sen. Jinggoy, Sen. Angara, Sen. Villar, Sen. Robin, nataranta na tulungan ako, and Sen. Robinhood even offered to carry me as well…

Anyway, dear colleagues, example lang ito. Order of business, journal. Every day, you will see that on your table. Every day, andyan yan. I leave it up to you if you read this during session, during the night, your staff reads it. Kanya-kanyang style yun. But in the last Congress, I requested na hindi na ako bigyan. I would read it on my Ipad, to save on paper. But I don’t impose that on anyone. It is a choice that you make. Now, is it hard to transfer to digital?

Dear colleagues, I defended all the tax measures digitally. So kung kinaya ko yun, kaya natin. It was a challenge, believe me. And to think I am a visual person, I am literally the type of person that needs different colored post-its. Pero kaya, if we want. But I am not saying it has to be that way. Everybody should do whatever they are comfortable with. But I illustrated this to show you that this is the kind of paper we generate. In a few months… This is Sen. Mark Villar’s folder that I stole. In a few months, all of this will be filled with bills and resolutions. This will be full, for the information of our new colleagues, mapupuno yan. The binder is a three-inch binder. Mapupuno yan, hindi mo na yan ma-flip. Is it even the copy that you use to write your notes? Most likely, hindi. Most likely, you will have another set of notes. So we all have to decide what we can do on our own, to do our part in lessening the paper. Again, there will be the MRF anyway, so kung ano naman ang ginamit natin, madadala din naman sa MRF and ire-recyle.

Now that is with respect to paper. With respect to tumblers, and I wanna show 2 pictures, I am very proud of my colleagues, nilubos-lubos niyo ang niregalo ko sa inyo na bamboo tumblers. Maraming salamat.

I was very proud and my colleagues were also very proud, Sen. Grace would show it to me, Sen. Manny, and many of you who are not even in the video, would use it. And I am sure buhay pa yan somewhere in your office and in your homes.

On that note, before I go to my next point, I wanna show the other slide, which is where one of my call to action comes in, which is the hearings. Nanawagan din tayo at nasunod naman na naging policy that we don’t use PET bottles in the hearings. And we actually put in the invitation to attend the hearing a notice to the resource persons to bring their own tumbler because we have a water dispenser. Sinunod naman nila. So I’d really like that to be imposed, that we continue to do this so that we can really make a difference in the country.

Now, for the sake of our new colleagues, I will also provide you with my gift to help you become more sustainable. So, I’ve asked Sen. Robin Padilla to help me carry, kaya ko naman buhatin but I don’t mind na may assistant akong tumutulong sa akin, mga personalized bottles para po sa inyong lahat, para talagang manindigan tayo sa ating trabaho na maging examples.

Actually, Sen. Bong Go has his [bamboo tumbler], thank you. That’s the proof of sustainability. Now my other demo, Sen. Robin, pahingi ng isang sample. Ayan. Okay, ito ang sa ‘yo. Dito ka sa tabi ko please para makita ng Senate President.

My dear colleagues, itong hawak ni Sen. Robin, 24 ounces. Imagine, ito ang bigay ko sa dating Congress, mas maliit, pero 3 years na, ginagamit pa. Dear colleagues, tingnan niyo naman ito [shows plastic pet bottles], itong apat, laman lang ng isa. So sa isang araw na nakikipagdebate tayo, madaling umubos ng apat, diba? So sa isang araw pa lang, tipid na tayo sa apat. Multiply that by the number of days, sa dami ng away, sa dami ng debate, kailangan uminom ng tubig, yun ho ang purpose nun, to illustrate. Thank you very much.

And then, on a further note, ito naman was just brought about by a conversation with Sen. Loren yesterday, I’d like to thank her because in our lounge today, nagdala siya ng sariling ani ng kanyang farm. At kinain na ni Sen. Robin kanina, yung mga lettuce, kung ano-ano andoon. Tapos nakita niya ang kinakain ko, sabi niya saan galing ang kinakain mo, sabi ko baon ko.

Ito naman ang baunan ko [shows lunch bag]. So if you noticed, lahat ng nagpapa-birthday, kinain ko pa nung gabi ang pa-birthday niyo kasi binabaon ko ang mga tira-tira natin doon, and of course, we also share that with whoever. I am just saying na mula noong grade school ako, may baon baon akong lunchbox, may baon pa rin akong lunchbox, Shopee lang ito. Kung sino may gusto, ako na bahala sa inyo, let me know kung gusto niyo rin magbaon. Especially the bachelors living alone, pero baka naman may nagluluto na para sa ating bachelors. Bahala na kayo doon…

So, Mr. President, if I may end with my call to action. Let’s ban the use of PET bottles in the Senate. But, well, encourage and request everyone to bring their own jug because if they plan to drink and be hydrated while they are here, then they can do that. What the Senate can do, and I will happily donate 100 jugs, hindi naman siguro ganitong personalized, pero I will have 100 more there in case nakalimutan mo. Hindi, baso lang naman pala. Baso lang sa sariling mga office natin, diba? Kung hindi kayo magdadala ng sarili niyong bottles or jugs.

Ban the use of sachets. Medyo maayos naman magpasweldo ang Senate, hindi ho ba? Kanino ko ba ide-direct ang tanong ko, to the Senate President or accounts chair? But I think maayos magpasweldo ang Senate. Siguro hindi naman tayo nagtitipid na naka-sachet, we can afford to buy the bigger containers of soap, dishwashing detergent, whatever, so that we can be more economical in the use of these kinds of products which tend to come in sachets, and are sometimes the go-to. We can also ban that in the Senate, your honors.

And then, yung no waste, no segregation pickup. Again, like I said, sustainability does not happen overnight. For this to happen, kailangan tayo mag-retrain. And we should get experts to help in every office to train us so that we can live that way. Sen. Loren is nodding her head, baka siya na mismo mag-offer. But anyway, like I said, the Senate has worked with a foundation, Mother Earth trained us to do that.

The other one, which is not an imposition, but maybe we can ask the Secretariat to continually study and make their own recommendations. But maybe we can have a team that makes these kinds of recommendations so that we will be always looking for ways to live and work more sustainably. And this should be data driven. So ang request ko, after we decide on all of this, let’s have data to show how many PET bottles did we no longer buy.

I am not saying we should not support the companies that provide us with distilled, mineral water. They can still provide that with the 5-gallon containers, that’s all I am saying. Hindi naman po sinasabing mag-DIY tayong lahat. Meron pwedeng i-DIY, meron din naman pwedeng binibili pa rin sa recognized suppliers. So that’s my point. I mean I know we have a gender office, [but] do we have a sustainability office? Maybe we can, maybe the Senate President can put together, maybe Sen. Loren, maybe you want to be the one to show it or ako na? Gift niya sa akin, okay. So nagregalo siya sa akin ng wooden, bamboo spoon and fork. So as my speech ends, magme-merienda na ako… I love it, the straw. Alam ko, umamin kayo, marami sa inyo mahilig sa milk tea, ayan na, huwag na kayong gumamit ng plastic straw. Not only is it not biodegradable, but it can actually choke marine animals and the soft plastic can strangle them, napipilay sila, it gets woven around their feet. Meron pa pala ditong bottle cleaner.

Okay, I think that comes to the end of my speech, your honors. I also have tumblers for the Secretariat. Pero doon sa ibang staff, pwede kanya-kanya na kayong regalo sa mga staff niyo? Bibigay ko na lang ang pangalan ng iba’t ibang supplier.

Thank you, Mr. President. #

In a privilege speech, Senator Pia Cayetano said the Senate can lead by example in promoting sustainability and environment-friendly practices, such as banning pet water bottles in sessions and hearings, and reducing the use of paper. Assisted by Senator Robinhood Padilla, Senator Pia gave personalized water tumblers to her colleagues and Senate officials in plenary.

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