Bogor, 6 July 2023: The alarming severity of marine plastic pollution in Southeast Asia demands united action and collaboration among relevant stakeholders, including local communities and their invaluable wisdom. During a joint briefing on Technology and Innovation Solutions to Address Marine Debris in Southeast Asia, held in Bogor, Indonesia, H.E. Ar. Siti Rozaimeriyanty Dato Haji Abdul Rahman, Secretary-General of ASEAN Inter-Parlimentary Assembly (AIPA) mentioned that the region currently faces a pressing threat, with statistics revealing that six out of ten ASEAN Member Countries contribute to over 31 million tons of plastic waste annually.

To combat the emerging crisis of marine plastic pollution, ASEAN has adopted several initiatives, including the ASEAN Framework on Circular Economy, ASEAN Sustainable Consumption and Production Framework, ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Blue Economy, ASEAN Strategic Plan of Customs Development, and ASEAN Regional Action Plan for Combatting Marine Debris. The parliamentary role is instrumental in enforcing these efforts. Mr. Zul Hilmi Saidin, Senior Officer of the Environment Division at ASEAN Secretariat, stressed the necessity of active engagement from parliaments in overseeing and ensuring a better balance between plastic production and environmental conservation. Parliamentary advocacy for funding, resources, and public-private investments is essential to driving these initiatives forward.

‘The parliament should strengthen further research and management of marine plastics, as well as foster new technologies and innovative solutions,’ said Mr Saidin.

Moreover, the parliament plays a vital role in fostering synergy with the government and representing the aspirations of the people to reduce plastic pollution.

At the national level, Mr Reo Kawamura, Director of Regional Knowledge Centre for Marine Plastic Debris, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) highlighted some good practices adopted by various nations. He pointed out that Japan has successfully implemented inter-municipal cooperation for waste management, effectively reducing costs while enhancing capacity. This collaborative approach serves as a promising model to tackle plastic pollution on a broader scale. In the meantime, several cities in Indonesia have made remarkable progress in curbing single-use plastics. For instance, in Bali, Governor Regulation No. 97/2018 came into effect on July 1, 2019, effectively prohibiting the use of plastic materials. This regulation has resulted in a reduction of more than 50% in the usage of plastic bags, plastic straws, and styrofoam. Similarly, the government of Jakarta took a similar approach with Governor Regulation No. 142/2019, which bans the use of disposable bags and mandates shopping mall management and traditional markets to adopt eco-friendly shopping bags.

Mr Reo Kawamura - Director of Environmental Policy and Regional Knowledge Centre for Marine Plastic Debris speaking at joint briefing on Technology and Innovation Solutions to Address Marine Debris in Southeast Asia

Mr Kawamura explained the good practices of plastic waste management in various countries (Photo credit by the organizers)

In the panel discussion, Hon. Putu Supadma Rudana, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee for Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation, emphasized the significance of local wisdom in providing communities with viable plastic alternatives, such as bamboo and seaweed.

‘Bali embraces the Balinese Philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, which outlines the connections between humans and God, humans among themselves, and humans with nature. This traditional insight has empowered the community to encourage the adoption of local resources as substitutes for plastics,’ said Hon. Rudana.

Tackling cross-boundary challenges like marine debris demands unwavering determination and increased collaboration among ASEAN Member States. Failing to address this issue could result in the depletion of biodiversity, leading to potential economic repercussions for several sectors like fisheries and tourism.