21 February 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Urges DOT to Emphasize the Use of Reusable Bags in the Nationwide Mall Sale in March 2020

Aside from promoting measures to thwart the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as well as control traffic congestion, an environmental group urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to also step up its advocacy for reusable bags as the country holds its first-ever "Philippine Shopping Festival" next month.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit green group working for a zero waste and toxics-free society, called upon Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat to optimize the shopping campaign not only to boost tourism, but also to encourage consumers and retailers to ditch the wasteful plastic bag habit.

“In line with the government’s thrust toward sustainable tourism, we urge Secretary Puyat to highlight the use of reusable bags in the month-long retail event that will be participated in by shopping malls across the country,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Puyat had previously stated that “in developing our tourism industry, we must strike a balance between economic opportunities and social responsibilities,” stressing “we must ensure that any development in the tourism industry must not be undertaken at the expense of the environment, the tourists, and the host communities.”

“With the well-being of Mother Nature in mind, the department’s promotional campaign should give due emphasis to the environmental benefits of reusable bags that will encourage more shoppers, locals and foreigners, into proudly bringing their own bags whenever they shop,” Benosa said.

“Instead of single-use plastic bags or paper bags, consumers should be reminded and rewarded for carrying reusable bags with them.  This will help in reducing the environmental and climate impact of single-use bags, particularly the myriad of problems associated with their unrestrained production, consumption and disposal,” he said.

“The use of bayong and other hand-woven bags made of native materials such as palm, pandan and water hyacinth, as well as DIY (do it yourself) tote bags from old clothes, katsa and fabric scraps, should be actively promoted and supported,” he suggested.  

"DOT's promotion of bayong and other reusable bags will also help local government units (LGUs) as this will translate to decreased volume of plastic use and waste," said Benosa, noting that over 500 LGUs have so far adopted ordinances banning or regulating plastic bags to minimize their garbage woes.

As shopping malls are also popular for dining, the EcoWaste Coalition further urged the DOT to use the nationwide sale to encourage a shift from disposables to reusables by restaurants, food courts, and other food and beverage vendors.

“Apart from urging retailers and consumers to embrace the use of reusable bags, we hope the DOT will also amplify the call for food business to rethink disposable and phase in reusable foodware substitutes, for tourists to bring their own water bottles, and for everyone to take responsibility for their discards,” Benosa said, noting the perennial problem with littering in tourism spots and events. 

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20 February 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Lauds Baguio City Government for Protecting Babies from Wet Wipes Containing Harmful Substances

Quezon City-based environmental NGO EcoWaste Coalition lauded the approval of an ordinance banning and penalizing the sale in the country’s summer capital of wet wipes containing injurious substances that can result in skin allergy. 

City Ordinance No. 8, series of 2020 entitled “Prohibiting the Sale of Wet Wipes and Other Similar Baby Products with Harmful Ingredients in the City of Baguio” authored by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan was  passed by the City Council on January 20 on motion of Councilor Philian Louise Weygan-Allan and  seconded by Councilors Joel Alangsab and Elaine Sembrano, and subsequently approved by Mayor Benjamin Magalong on January 28.

After being duly posted and published, the said ordinance is now effective in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991.

“We congratulate the Baguio City Government for enacting this ordinance that will protect consumers, especially newborns, infants, and toddlers, from certain substances in wet wipes that can provoke contact dermatitis,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the World Allergy Organization, a global federation of allergy, asthma and clinical immunology societies, “contact dermatitis is a skin disorder characterized by redness, itching and vesiculation resulting from contact with environmental substances that elicits an allergic and/or irritant response.”

“The baby’s delicate skin is most vulnerable to irritation and allergic reactions, so we consider the adoption of this ordinance as a baby-friendly act worthy of being replicated by other local government units,” Dizon said.  

“Kudos to the Committee on Market, Trade, Commerce and Agriculture chaired by Councilor Weygan-Allan for successfully shepherding the ordinance through the Council,” Dizon, who served as a resource person for the committee's public hearing last November 21, 2019, added.

The ordinance prohibits the sale of wet wipes and similar baby products containing iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC), methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and parabens.

Among the initial list of non-compliant baby wipes not allowed to be sold in the city are Dong Bang, Dong Bang Yao Baby Tender, Family Treasure Baby Tender, Sky Fire, Giggley and Super Soft Skin Care Towel.  Additionally, other wet wipe products containing harmful IPBC, MCT, MIT and parabens shall be prohibited.

The ordinance assigns the City Health Services Office in coordination with the Public Order and Safety Division of the City Mayor’s Office, the City Police Office and the barangays to inspect retail outlets and to confiscate non-compliant products.

Business establishments found to have violated the ordinance shall be fined P1,000 for the first offense and immediate closure for establishments without a business permit, P3,000 for the second offense and closure until compliance, and P5,000 for the third offense and non-renewal of business permit.  

However, businesses and individuals who voluntarily surrender non-compliant products to the City Health Services Office shall not be penalized.

The City Health Services Office in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration and the City Environment and Parks Management Office shall determine the appropriate and environment-friendly disposal of the surrendered products.

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Reference:

https://www.worldallergy.org/education-and-programs/education/allergic-disease-resource-center/professionals/contact-dermatitis-synopsis

16 February 2020

Groups Press for Waste Importation Ban as Philippines Returns 50 Containers of Trash to South Korea (Third batch re-exported today; fourth and last batch to be re-exported on February 23)





Environmental health groups have appealed to the Duterte government to ban the importation of foreign waste as they also asked other countries to stop exporting their unwanted waste to the Philippines.

At the send-off ceremony held at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) for the third batch of illegal South Korean waste shipments to be re-exported, environmental advocates led by Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition and Davao City-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) pushed for preventive measures to halt the entry of hazardous wastes and other refuse, including household and plastic trash, into the country’s ports.

Bureau of Customs-Region X Port Collector John Simon had earlier said that “the re-exportation of the remaining wastes from South Korea this month signifies our nation’s steadfastness to protect public health and the environment from the deceptive trade in hazardous waste disguised as plastic waste for recycling,” stressing that “as guardians of our ports, we (the BOC) are committed to curb illegal trade and halt all forms of customs fraud, including the practice of falsely declaring hazardous waste and other wastes as recyclables.”

For her part, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, emphasized that “the chain of foreign waste dumping incidents that sparked national outrage warrants the imposition of tougher policies that will effectively deter the illegal traffic of hazardous wastes and other wastes, especially those from developed economies who have more resources to safely manage their own wastes.”

Chinkie PeliƱo-Golle, Executive Director of IDIS agreed:  “We must not allow countries to continue exporting their waste problem to the Philippines.  To send a clear signal to these countries that we do not want their waste, the government has to fast track the adoption of preventive measures banning the entry of wastes in whatever form of disguise.”

The groups specifically pointed to the need for the Duterte government to proceed with the long overdue ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment (an international law banning the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries), and to ban the importation of waste altogether.

“These environmental justice measures will protect our country and our people from the negative consequences of global waste trade," the groups insisted.

The groups likewise asked the government to ensure that all parties behind the unlawful waste shipments from South Korea to be held fully accountable, and for the national government to extend full assistance to the local government unit affected by the illegal traffic of waste, including the conduct of environmental sampling to assess the contamination of the storage area for the illegal waste and its cleanup and rehabilitation.

The controversial waste shipments from South Korea, weighing about 6,500 tons and falsely declared as “plastic synthetic flakes,” were imported by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corporation.  The shipments arrived in Northern Mindanao in July and October 2018.

Found by the authorities as “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health,” BOC-10 then issued three warrants of seizure and detention against the said illegal waste shipments.  Citing violations of DENR Administrative Order 2013-22 and Republic Act 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, BOC-10 ordered the waste shipments re-exported to their origin.

Following successful negotiations with the South Korean government involving stakeholders from the public and private sectors, including the EcoWaste Coalition, the first batch of 51 containers vans were re-exported from MICT port on January 13 last year.

The second and third batches of 50 containers per batch followed on January 19 and February 16, 2020.  And the last batch is scheduled for repatriation on February 23, 2020.

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13 February 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Says: “Accept, love and be proud of your natural skin color” (Group urges consumers to say no to skin lightening cosmetics with banned ingredients such as mercury, hydroquinone and/or tretinoin)

“Accept, love and be proud of your natural skin color.”

The proliferation of cosmetics containing banned skin whitening agents prompted the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog group, to exhort Filipinos, especially women and girls, to embrace and take pride in their natural skin tone.

The group’s renewed pitch for “brown is beautiful” came on the heels of successive advisories issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  warning consumers against the purchase and use of cosmetics containing mercury, hydroquinone and/or tretinoin, which are not allowed to be part of a cosmetic product as per Annex II Part 1 of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

Additionally, the FDA has warned the public about the side effects of using injectable lightening agents such as glutathione, which can have toxic effects on the liver, kidneys and the nervous system. 

“We need not poison our bodies and the environment with mercury and other harmful pigment inhibiting agents in our desire to have a lighter skin complexion,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Instead of altering your natural skin color, why not accept, love and be proud of what you have?” he asked, emphasizing “there is no shame in brown or black skin.” 

“If whitening one’s skin is really desired, please be careful on how you will do it.  Better seek the advice of licensed dermatologists on proper skincare and on skin disease prevention, detection and treatment,” he added.

The group noted the rash of cosmetics being flagged by FDA due to the presence of banned ingredients such as mercury, hydroquinone and/or tretinoin, including those banned by other ASEAN member states..

To date, the FDA has prohibited the sale of over 135 mercury-containing skin whitening creams, which are mostly imported from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan.   

The FDA has likewise banned several skincare products such as facial astringent, toner and cream containing hydroquinone and/or  tretinoin, many of which are locally manufactured.

“Adverse health effects of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening creams and soaps include: kidney damage, skin rashes, discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the FDA, “hydroquinone is no longer allowed to be part of a cosmetic product and is classified as a drug product in the Philippines because of its multiple serious adverse effects (i.e. sensitivity to light, skin redness and permanent skin discoloration) when used indiscriminately.”

As per the FDA, “products containing hydroquinone and/or tretinoin (retinoic acid) shall be classified as a home remedy, over-the-counter, or prescription drug depending on the amount present as per DOH Administrative Order No. 13, series of 1999.”

The US-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Cancer has identified “cancer, organ system toxicity and respiratory tract irritation” among the health concerns associated with the use of hydroquinone in skin lighteners, facial and skin cleansers, facial moisturizers, hair conditioners, and finger nail coating products.

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Reference:

http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/hydroquinone/

https://www.who.int/publications-detail/mercury-in-cosmetics-and-skin-lightening-products

https://www.fda.gov.ph/category/cosmetic-advisories/page/3/

12 February 2020

Third Batch of Illegal Waste Shipments from South Korea to be Sent Back on February 16 (Fourth and last batch to be shipped back on February 23)


A total of 100 container vans of contaminated plastic waste illegally shipped to Northern Mindanao from South Korea will soon be returned to their source.

As announced by Bureau of Customs-Region X (BOC-10) Port Collector John Simon through a text message to the EcoWaste Coalition, 50 container vans will be sent back to South Korea on February 16 and the last 50 containers on February 23.

“This will bring the total number of re-exported containers to 201,” said Simon, noting that 50 containers were shipped back on January 19, 2020 and another 51 containers on January 13, 2019.

“The re-exportation of the remaining wastes from South Korea this month signifies our nation’s steadfastness to protect public health and the environment from the deceptive trade in hazardous waste disguised as plastic waste for recycling,” said Simon.

“As guardians of our ports, we are committed to curb illegal trade and halt all forms of customs fraud, including the practice of falsely declaring hazardous waste and other wastes as recyclables,” he added.

The container ships “Vivaldi” and “Nordmarsh” will bring the stranded wastes back to South Korea on February 16 and 23, respectively, confirmed Simon.

The environmental health group EcoWaste Coalition, which has been monitoring compliance to the bilateral agreement by the governments of the Philippines and South Korea for the re-export of the illegal waste consignments, welcomed Simon’s announcement.

“The re-exportation of the remaining wastes and the cleanup of the storage site in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, which factually became an open dumpsite for South Korean rubbish, will help in bringing this dumping controversy to a close,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To deter illegal traffic of waste in the future, all those responsible for this mess should be fully held accountable in accordance with the rule of law,” said Lucero, who also emphasized the need for the national government to impose a total ban on waste importation and to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, an international law banning transfer of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries.  

"These environmental justice measures will protect our country and our people from the negative consequences of global waste trade," she added.  
   
Imported by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corporation, the South Korean waste shipments wrongly declared as “plastic synthetic flakes” and weighing about 6,500 tons arrived in Northern Mindanao in July and October 2018. 

Assessed by the authorities as “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health,” BOC-10 then issued three warrants of seizure and detention against the illegal waste shipments from South Korea.

BOC-10 further issued a re-exportation order for the said waste shipments citing violations of DENR Administrative Order 2013-22 and Republic Act 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.  

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