POSTSCRIPT / November 6, 2012 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Use biodegradable plastic bags in malls

PLASTIC OR PAPER?: There is a minor debate over using either plastic bags in shopping malls and public markets OR paper bags and other non-plastic containers.

After floods brought by typhoons and heavy rains, we are appalled by the sight of plastics clogging the drains and canals and cluttering the environment. Hence the growing aversion to plastic bags, packaging and containers.

Some local governments, Quezon City for one, have restricted the use of plastic shopping bags in malls and public markets. The use of paper bags and other alternative containers is encouraged. Buyers who ask for plastic bags are made to pay P2 per bag.

Will this direction shift the burden to paper and, hence, to trees which are the main source of pulp used in making paper?

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TOUGH CHOICE: To the average shopper, the dilemma has been simplified to: Do we ban plastic bags to prevent the clogging of drains and canals or do we cut more trees to make more paper bags?

We need not make such a tough choice. We can spare the trees and instead use biodegradable plastic bags. Technically, this is feasible. Biodegradable plastic bags are already being used in a number of places.

There are also the native bayongs, baskets and other containers that are neither plastic nor paper.

Most important, let us educate our people to protect the environment and thus improve the symbiotic balance of our ecosystem.

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BIODEGRADABLE: Local governments can consider passing ordinances requiring the use of biodegradable plastic bags in malls, shops and markets without extra cost to consumers. The Congress can follow and pass a law covering the entire country.

The law can be amended later to keep in step with research making possible the use of plastics in a wider variety of containers. In the meantime, if it is just plastic shopping bags, there is no technical problem.

Plastics are considered biodegradable if they can be biologically broken down within reasonable time into their base components. A distinction is that they are not necessarily compostable into organic humus.

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VILLAR STAND: Former congresswoman Cynthia Aguilar Villar, Nacionalista senatorial candidate under the administration coalition, was quoted in Iloilo as saying she saw nothing wrong with members of the same family running for various elective posts.

If there is nothing wrong with that, how come the Constitution, specifically Section 26, Section II, says: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and PROHIBIT POLITICAL DYNASTIES as may be defined by law.” (Emphasis supplied)

Is Mrs. Villar saying the constitutional prohibition is wrong? Is she implying that the framers of the Constitution and the people who ratified it in 1987 were mistaken?

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FAMILY SEATS: Speaking in Iloilo last week, Mrs. Villar said it was normal for children to take after their parents and follow their career choice. It is not fair, she added, not to vote for candidates just because their family members are already holding public office.

Mrs. Villar replaced her three-termer (1992-2001) husband Manny Villar as congressman from Las Piñas. Manny himself had taken over from his father-in-law, then Rep. Filemon Aguilar, who was representative of then Muntinlupa-Las Piñas district.

After three consecutive terms (2001-2010) in the House, Mrs. Villar now wants to move to the Senate in place of her husband who is on his last term as senator.

When Mrs. Villar bowed out of the House in 2010, she was replaced by her son Mark Villar as representative of Las Piñas – where her brother Vergel Aguilar is now the mayor, a post previously held by his wife Imelda Aguilar.

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THERE’S A LAW: It has been 25 years since the Constitution banned political dynasties. Yet the Congress – dominated by old and emerging dynasties – refuses to pass a law supplying the necessary definition.

There is already a law, the Constitution itself, imposing the ban. Only a law defining the term “political dynasty” is needed.

In the current Congress, Sen. Miriam Santiago has filed Senate Bill 2649 providing that no spouse or person related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity may run in the same province in the same election.

Also under the bill, if an official holds a national position, the politician’s relatives would be disqualified from running in the province where the official is a registered voter.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, who is running for senator, has filed a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

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WE KNOW THEM: Since there is no more time to legislate a definition, and considering the resistance of the politicos lording it over the Congress, an anti-political dynasty law is not likely to pass.

Petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court: one petition asks the tribunal to hand down a judicial definition and another for the court to order the Congress to legislate a definition.

Parallel to these moves in the Congress and before the SC, what could be done is for EVERY VOTER who agrees with the ban to apply his own definition — and reject those who in his opinion are dynastic candidates.

Some candidates, especially those belonging to the same family (spouse, children and siblings), are clearly dynastic even without a law saying it.

The qualifications of these dynastic candidates become secondary. There are thousands of Filipinos outside political clans who are more qualified than many lawmakers in the Congress.

Voters’ perception of political dynasties will be diverse and subjective, but rejecting dynastic candidates may be the only way for the people to enforce finally the constitutional ban.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 6, 2012)

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