Single-use plastics ban now in effect in Apo Reef | Inquirer News

Single-use plastics ban now in effect in Apo Reef

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 01:50 PM March 28, 2024

Single-use plastics ban now in effect in Apo Reef


MANILA, Philippines—Planning a getaway to Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP) soon? Be prepared to pack a little differently this time around.

The ARNP, located off the coast of Occidental Mindoro in the Sulu Sea, is the largest coral reef system in the Philippines and the second largest in the world.


Spanning a total of 27,469 hectares within the Sulu Sea, including an 11,677-hectare protective buffer zone, the ARNP is home to an impressive and diverse array of colorful birds, mammals, reptiles, marine vertebrates, and invertebrates.


In a significant step toward environmental conservation, ARNP’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) has introduced an ordinance prohibiting single-use plastic products. It aims to protect the park’s diverse marine life and pristine natural beauty.

Here’s what you need to know about the eco-friendly policy.

Single-use plastic phaseout

The ordinance titled “PAMB Ordinance AR 23-0001,” or the “Single-use Plastics Phase-out in Apo Reef Natural Park,” was enacted on June 23, 2023.

According to Article II, Section 5 of this regulation, it is prohibited for any person or entity involved in commerce, tourism, research, or other activities to use, sell, transport, or distribute any of the following single-use plastic items or products packaged in such materials within the park’s boundaries:

  • lightweight plastic singlet bags (plastic labo) and produce bags (sando bag);
  • disposable cutlery, straws, stirrers, cups, bowls, flat plates, clingwrap, and clamshell food containers;
  • carbonated, unflavored drinking water in single-use containers less than 7 liters and other carbonated and/or flavored beverages in single-use containers less than 1.5 liters;
  • ready-to-drink beverages in doy/tetra packs;
  • balloons and balloons sticks with cups;
  • plastic-stemmed cotton buds, excluding nasopharyngeal swabs for viral specimen collection; and
  • plastic-based wet wipes, excluding first aid wipes and towelettes.

“This PAMB ordinance will strengthen our fight against marine pollution,” said Krystal Dayne T. Villanada, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s Ecosystem Management Specialist and Protected Area Superintendent of ARNP

“While most of the trash in Apo Reef is washed ashore from nearby provinces and countries, we still need to address this waste pollution problem inside the protected area,” Villanada said.


“We also cannot deny that in one way or another, part of this trash that we throw ends up in the ocean due to the chronic lack of proper disposal facilities. We want to be the beating heart of the battle against marine pollution in Mindoro,” Villanada added.

Single-use plastic phaseout penalties

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

To enforce compliance with the new environmental safeguards, Section 6 of the ordinance outlines a structured penalty system for transgressors. A first offense will result in a fine of P1,000, accompanied by oral and written warnings.

Subsequent violations will incur increasingly severe penalties: P10,000 for a second offense and P30,000 for a third. Persistent offenders, upon their fourth infraction, will be prohibited from entering ARNP for at least one year.

“With the penalties and provisions of this ordinance, Apo Reef will radiate the passion of marine conservation through the reduction of single-use plastic,” Villanada stressed.

Marine-protected areas ban single-use plastic

According to Oceana, an international ocean protection and conservation group, ARNP is the second marine protected area in the Philippines to ban single-use plastic, following the lead of Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (TRNP).

“We are proud of the leadership set by the management bodies of these two natural parks and their commitment to reduce plastic pollution in our ocean,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana International vice president.

“We would like to express our gratitude to ARNP management body for their timely passage of the ordinance,” Ramos said.

“The alarming presence of microplastics found in our coral reefs, seagrass and commercially significant fishes should move our government to cohesively take action to ban single-use plastics at the national scale,” Ramos added.


GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan/

In 2019, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB)— the sole policy-making and permit-granting body for the Tubbataha Reefs— issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 02 banning single-use plastics in Tubbataha.

Since January of that year, anyone who enters the park has been prohibited from using single-use plastics such as water bottles, plastic cutleries, straws, stirrers, styrofoam cups and plates, and other items made of plastic.

READ: Oceana lauds single-use plastic ban in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

While the order was issued and effective in 2019, the lifting of lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an enhanced information campaign to be relaunched this year.

‘Fight against marine pollution’

In a statement, Oceana cited a study by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which confirmed the presence of microplastics in the 10 water bodies in different parts of the country that served as their study sites.

“ARNP is among these sites where microplastic contamination is evident, albeit significantly less than the other marine protected areas, Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS), and Taklong Island National Marine Reserve (TINMAR),” Oceana noted in the statement.

READ: Microplastics: Why we now already breathe, ingest killer plastics

Villanada urged those who are planning on visiting ARNP to get used to the new regulation banning single-use plastics.

“We hope that our beloved tourists in Apo Reef will understand that starting a new regulation is hard. We must get used to it for it to be effective,” said Villanada.

“We appeal to you to help us fight against marine pollution. Reducing single-use plastics is not an overnight job, it should be a habit that we must embrace anywhere we go. May we set a good example to others, dahil ang turista ng Apo, tourist-ponsable,” she added.

Apo Reef

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan/

According to the ARNP website, the clear blue waters of the Apo Reef are teeming with 285 species of colorful marine life, including tropical aquarium fish, snappers, and the crevice-dwelling moray. It is also known as one of the best dive spots in the world, attracting hordes of divers all year round.

Apo Reef was declared a protected area under the category of Natural Park by Presidential Proclamation No. 868, which was issued in 1996. The DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) also listed the Apo Reef for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

READ: 7 PH sites added to Unesco World Heritage tentative list

However, the ARNP website stressed that the effects of years of overfishing, lethal chemical pollution, destructive coral mining, sedimentation, and climatic change had been detrimental, resulting in acidification, coral bleaching, and ocean warming.

“Now steps have been taken to protect the Apo Reef,” stated the ARNP’s website.

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TAGS: Apo Reef, INQFocus, Microplastics, oceana, single-use plastic

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