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PB2020-07: Taxing Plastic Bags: Looking at Equity and Efficiency Considerations

The House Committee on Ways and Means of the 18th Congress recently approved an unnumbered substitute bill to House Bill No. 178 imposing excise tax on plastic bags. The Committee has yet to file the Committee Report for the same. The bill encourages producers, as well as consumers, to shift to more environment-friendly alternatives to plastic bags. Moreover, it intends to generate additional revenues for the government which could be used for programs and projects on Solid Waste Management in the Philippines. In the Philippines, a number of regulatory measures have been applied both at the national and local levels to address the issue of plastic waste. Specifically, Republic Act (RA) No. 9003 otherwise known as the “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000” is regarded as a landmark legislation for managing wastes in the country. Yet, its implementation remains a struggle, given the gaps--both financial and administrative--in solid waste management. Apart from RA 9003, there is no other law that specifically regulates the use of plastic bags at the national level. Although some LGUs have issued ordinances banning or regulating plastic bags use, results depend on their implementation. Despite existing regulatory policies, plastic pollution still remains a huge challenge. Both globally and nationally, plastic pollution poses economic, environmental, and social costs. Hence, countries are pushing beyond existing regulations to pursue more effective approaches. Countries are looking at taxation in order to trigger a change in behavior and to shift the burden of economic costs associated with plastic pollution to the polluters. The two predominant approaches are tax imposed on production and import, and levy or fee charged to consumers. In consideration of the proposed “Plastic Bags Tax”, the lessons from other countries can also provide a guidepost in the design of the tax provisions. As with any tax, it is important that it should be targeted, effective, fair, and administratively feasible. The plastic bag tax should not primarily aim at raising revenue but rather on how to change the behavior (both producers and consumers) so as to achieve the intended environmental purpose.

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