Siargao town first in Surigao del Norte to ban use of plastic bags

PILAR, Siargao Island  (MindaNews / 11 March) — Single-use plastic bags are no longer allowed in this town, the first to do so in the entire Surigao del Norte.

The municipal council approved the ban in late February, amid mounting calls from local conservationists.

Eladio Napil, officer-in-charge of Pilar Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office explained that plastic is not biodegradable, an eyesore and especially harmful to sensitive marine ecosystems. He said plastic materials are destroying the environment of the town’s coastal areas.

“The town’s goal is to discourage single-use bags and encourage the use of reusable bags,” he said in a telephone interview.

Tourists who will bring plastic bags will be barred from entering the premises of Magpupungko rock pool and tidal flats in Pilar town in Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, following the passage of a municipal ordinance banning the use of plastic bags.. MindaNews photo taken March 1, 2018 by ROEL N. CATOTO

The ban covers plastic bags used in grocery and convenience stores, and applies to all business entities. The ordinance urges business establishments to provide customers with paper bags, reusable bags or bags made from degradable resin compounds.

The ban, however, does not include food items wrapped in plastic.

Businesses that do not comply with the ban face a fine, and stiffer penalties for succeeding violations.

“We will fine them 500 pesos for the first offense, 1,000 pesos for the second offense, a fine and four-six months imprisonment for the third offense including a cancellation of the business permit,” Napil said.

Several residents expressed appreciation for the ban, saying environment is everyone’s priority.

Nathaniel Corbeta, a journalist based here, said the ban has encouraged enterprising businessmen to use sustainable alternatives. For instance, he said some fish vendors now use a strip of rattan—locally known as “lagos”—instead of plastic bags.

Wynmar Tesiorna, officer-in-charge of the Magpupungko tidal flats and rock formations, said tourists who bring plastic bags will be denied entry in the popular resort.

Pilar town is known for its annual international game fishing tournaments, usually held in the summertime. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)