The legislator wife of ultra bilyonaryo Manny Villar has admitted to watering down a bill banning plastic sachet after Unilever, a backer of the family’s SIPAG Foundation, aggressively fought against it.
In an investigative report, Reuters claimed Unilever – which sells Pond’s, Axe, Master, Lifebuoy, Cream Silk, Dove, Eskinol, Domex, Clear, Close Up, Lady’s Choice, and Best Foods locally – “directly lobbied (Senator Cynthia) Villar last year (2021) to focus the government’s plastic regulation on cleaning up sachets rather than banning them, two people involved in the talks said.”
“Sachet bans were later dropped by lawmakers in India and the Philippines, which together account for more than 10% of Unilever’s global sales,” according to the report.
Villar told Reuters that the Senate’s version of the Extended Producer Responsibility Act, which mandated Unilever and other consumer brands to contribute to the cost of collecting and disposing of plastic waste in exchange for tax perks, was “the compromise alternative” to the House version which pushed for the phase out of single-use plastic like sachet packaging.
Cynthia, chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment, insisted that the final version, which has yet to be signed by outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, “would help to reduce packaging waste and increase recycling.”
Reuters cited the Villar’ family’s cozy relationship with Unilever on plastic waste.
“The senator’s anti-poverty charity, Villar SIPAG Foundation, in 2017 announced a partnership with Unilever in which the company would train homemakers and the unemployed to make handbags from plastic litter. That same year, Villar delivered the keynote address at the launch of Surf Misis Walastik, a local Unilever project to collect sachets and other plastic waste to be used as fuel and converted into chairs for schools,” said Reuters.
Reuters, however, could not determine if Unilever’s lobbying influenced the outcome.
Both Cynthia and Unilever declined to comment on the alleged lobbying by British multinational consumer goods company nor its links to the Villar family’s foundation.