02 August 2015

Environmental Watchdog Tells LGUs to Pass Measures Banning Foreign Waste Disposal in Their Areas

An environmental watchdog urged local authorities to be on the alert as customs authorities scamper for alternative disposal options for the controversial Canadian garbage shipments following strong rejection by the government and people of Tarlac last month.

“To prevent such eventuality, we call upon concerned local government units (LGUs) to pass preemptive measures that will prohibit the disposal of garbage from Canada or any other countries in facilities under their jurisdiction,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Ordinances or resolutions by concerned provincial, city and municipal councils would frustrate any move by the Bureau of Customs to dispose of the reeking foreign garbage locally instead of shipping it back to its origin,” she said.

“LGUs should enact a blanket prohibition on foreign waste disposal to send an unambiguous message to Canada and the entire world that no part of the country is willing to be a global trash bin.   It is a patriotic and precautionary act in the name of public health and the environment that will surely draw the respect and support of their constituents,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition particularly urged Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal and Metro Manila LGUs hosting landfills, cement kilns or incinerators where Canada’s garbage may be transported for final disposal to take precaution against such threat.

“While Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado had verbally rejected the potential dumping of Canada’s garbage in Bulacan, we think it is vital for the Provincial Board, as well as for the concerned municipal or city councils, to formally say no to foreign waste disposal in their province be it through dumping or burning,” said Lucero.

Bulacan is home to three landfill facilities located in the municipalities of Obando and Norzagaray and in San Jose del Monte City, as well as cement plants using municipal waste as alternative fuel.  

“We also call upon the City Councils of Navotas City and Quezon City to take a firm stance against foreign waste dumping and disallow the use of landfills in Tanza and Payatas, respectively, for imported garbage,” Lucero said.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged all LGUs to step up the genuine enforcement of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, towards increased waste prevention and reduction to ultimately cut the volume of residual waste requiring environmentally-sound disposal.

The group pointed out that imported trash such as the 103 container vans of garbage from Canada would not qualify as “municipal waste,” which is defined under R.A. 9003 as “wastes produced from activities within local government units,” explicitly excluding wastes generated abroad.


01 August 2015

Renowned Environmental Health Leaders Laud Filipino Children’s Storybook on Lead Poisoning Prevention

"Ang Makulay na Bahay" storytelling activity held on July 31, 2015 at Dagat-Dagatan Elementary School, Navotas City in cooperation with the local chapter of Rotary Club International.
Distinguished environmental health advocates from the Philippines and abroad welcomed the groundbreaking publication of a storybook to educate kids and adults about toxic lead and how to prevent exposure.

Last week, the EcoWaste Coalition released “Ang Makulay na Bahay” (The Colorful House), the first-ever Filipino children’s storybook about lead in paint and dust  written by Dr. Luis P. Gatmaitan, a medical doctor and an award-winning children’s literature fictionist and essayist, and illustrated by graphic artist Gilbert F. Lavides.

Illustrious recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize, known by many as the green Nobel Prize, from Russia, Philippines and Indonesia, as well as the Philippine Medical Association, gave the storybook a resounding thumbs up.

Russian scientist Dr. Olga Speranskaya,  Co-Chairperson of IPEN, a global civil society network promoting safe chemical policies and practices, said the book “is a great example of a publication that raises the awareness of parents and children about chemical hazard.”

“Parents unknowingly expose their kids to toxic chemicals by bringing home consumer products, including toys, contaminated with lead or by painting their houses with lead-based paints. Not many people are aware of lead contents in paints and their health effects. The book raises safety concerns for exposure in children due to extensive hand to mouth behavior and highlight the need for eliminating lead from paint,” she said. 

Filipino Von Hernandez of Greenpeace International said: “Color need not be associated with poison! This is the literal yet profound message that this book offers. For our children to lead truly productive and colorful lives, we have an obligation as parents and responsible citizens to ensure that their living environment is free from significant sources of toxics exposure, particularly household paints containing lead.” 

“The risk posed by lead exposure to our kids is absolutely unacceptable, especially because that risk is avoidable in the first place. Eliminating the use of lead containing paints should not only be a no-brainer as this book radiantly and evocatively puts across.  It is also the ethical thing to do!  A toxics-free environment represents a bright-colored future for our children," he emphasized.

Indonesian environmental engineer Yuyun Ismawati, Senior Advisor of Balifokus,  said: "This book is a great way to convey the important message of chemical safety to parents through their children. To be aware of the right to health and a toxics-free environment is among the basic rights that young and adult readers could learn from this book." 

Dr. E. Ulysses Dorotheo, Chairperson, Committee for Environmental Health and Ecology of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), said:  “This storybook is not just for kids but also for parents and other adults, because lead toxicity affects everyone. While we are concerned for the wellbeing of our children, many of us are like Nanay Nida in the story, completely unaware of this serious public health and safety issue, as well as the ways to address it.” 

“Thankfully, both the story and illustrations explain in a clear and simple way how we and especially our children are at risk of lead poisoning from exposure to lead in paints that are used in our homes, workplaces, classrooms, playgrounds, and toys.  The particular focus on the symptoms of lead toxicity, such as learning disabilities and behavioral changes among infants and children, is a warning signal for us to protect the future of our country,” he said.

The PMA hoped “that (the) storybook will generate more public awareness among parents, teachers, students, policy makers, and business and government leaders about the need to remove sources of lead exposure in our social environments, particularly in homes and schools.”

Children’s environmental health champions Dr. Irma Macalinao of the University of the Philippines and Prof. Scott Clark of the University of Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) also reviewed “Ang Makulay na Buhay,” providing constructive ideas on how to better communicate the hazards related to lead.
“Ang Makulay na Buhay” was produced with financial assistance from the European Union, IPEN and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.


30 July 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Welcomes Filing of Smuggling Charges vs Canada Garbage Importer

An environmental watchdog group welcomed the legal action taken by customs authorities against the importer of 48 shipping containers of misdeclared plastic scraps from Canada.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) today sued Pampanga-based Live Green Enterprises for the illegal importation of heterogenous municipal garbage from Canada, a move that was welcomed by the EcoWaste Coalition, a staunch anti-dumping advocate.

“We welcome BOC’s legal action against the garbage importer that we hope will be expeditiously tackled by the proper court,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.”

“The court, we pray, should order the importer to immediately re-export the garbage to Canada and set a unequivocal ruling that will severely castigate and punish any attempt to make our country into a global trash bin,” she added.

On Thursday, BOC sued Nelson Manio of Live Green Enterprises for violation of Sections 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and the DENR Administrative Order 1994-28, or the “Interim Guidelines in the Importation of Recyclable Material Containing Hazardous Substances."

DENR A.O. 1994-28 states that “no importation of heterogenous and unsorted plastic materials shall be allowed” and that “all plastics should have no traces of toxic materials.”  

In their letter to the BOC and the Environmental Management Bureau on this matter last June 25, the EcoWaste Coalition urged both agencies “to push for the immediate return of the botched garbage shipments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada.”

“Allowing the landfilling of Canadian garbage into our soil would send a very wrong and dangerous signal to waste traders that the Philippines, despite the legal restrictions, is an open place where the refuse of affluent societies masked as ‘plastic scraps’ can be sent for disposal,” the group said.  

Shipping back the illegal garbage imports from Canada, the group said, “will demonstrate that our government means business when it comes to protecting the public health and the environment from illegal waste trade.”

The group also urged BOC “to pay keen attention on the entry of materials described as ‘recyclable plastic scraps,’ which could be a smokescreen for the illegal entry of residual ‘wastes collected from households,’ which are also covered by the Basel Convention, along with other categories of hazardous wastes.”

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, of which the Philippines is a party, recognizes “that any state has the sovereign right to ban the entry or disposal of foreign hazardous wastes and other wastes in its territory.”


29 July 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Exposes Continued Sale of Artificial Nail Sets with Toxic Glue in Divisoria

A toxics watchdog group advised consumers to refrain from buying artificial nail sets with matching glue that contains hazardous substances such as chloroform and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

“DBP and chloroform are among the over 1,350 substances that ‘must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products’ as per Annex II, Part I of the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.  Girls and women who are fond of art nails should be wary of potential health hazards due to exposure to these chemicals in some glue products,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Dizon urged consumers to exercise precaution after his group procured nine brands of artificial nail sets in Divisoria, Manila that come with a little tube of glue containing DBP as indicated on the label.

These brands include Art Nails, Design Nail, Fashion Nail, Hong Lin Fringed Iris Art Nail, Keke Designer Nails Set, Meijiaer, Miss Seven Nail Art Set, New Air Art Nail and Yu Yao Nail Art Beads Set, which the group bought last Monday for P3 to P80 per set at cosmetics shops in 168, 999 and Lucky Chinatown shopping malls.

The above products lacked complete labeling information and the required product notification from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

“Almost six months after the government warned against artificial nail sets with DBP-containing adhesive glue, we still find them in the market as if they are legal to sell,” lamented Dizon.

Last February 2015, the FDA  warned  against allergic effects from DBP that “can cause the immune system to respond to chemical exposures with immunological reactions that are harmful, varying from hives to life threatening responses such as anaphylactic shock, where low blood pressure and breathing difficulties can result in death.”

The EcoWaste Coalition also warned against a type of nail glue that was recently banned in Denmark for containing excessive amount of chloroform, which can cause skin irritation and damage a person’s health if ingested or inhaled.

The Danish health authorities further warned that “exposure to chloroform fumes can cause damage to internal organs, mainly the liver and kidneys, as well as risk of cancer.”

During its recent market monitoring in Divisoria, the group managed to buy a nail glue for P8 per bottle that bears a close resemblance to the one that was ordered withdrawn from the market by the Danish government.

To avoid potential exposure to chloroform and DBP in nail glues, the EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to patronize nail products with proper FDA Certificate of Product Notification and marketed by FDA-licensed manufacturer, importer or distributor.






28 July 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Waste Disposal Facilities and Surrounding Communities to Take Part in Earthquake Drill

An environmental watchdog group urged waste disposal facilities and surrounding communities to actively participate in the metro-wide earthquake drill this coming Thursday.

“The participation of all sectors is essential to avoid loss of life, lessen damage to property and reduce contamination of the environment due to earthquake-induced shaking of the ground,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“Landfills and other waste disposal sites and their host communities are not exempt from the devastating effects of a strong quake and thus the need for emergency readiness,” she said.

“We hope that disposal facilities for Metro Manila’s wastes, including those located outside the metropolis, will take part in the MMDA-led earthquake drill for better disaster preparedness,” she added.

Metro Manila’s wastes,  according to the website of the National Solid Waste Management Commission.  are dumped in various sites such as the Payatas landfill for Quezon City’s garbage; Navotas landfill, which receives waste from Malabon, Manila and Navotas; and the Rizal Provincial Landfill in Rodriguez, Rizal that serves  Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Mandaluyong, Marikina,  Muntinlupa, Parañaque,Pasay, Pasig, Pateros, San Juan and Taguig local government units (LGUs).

Other landfills in operation or under construction in adjacent LGUs include those in Norzagaray, Obando and San Jose del Monte in Bulacan and in Rodriguez and San Mateo, Rizal.

A study  by the Environmental Protection Administration of Taiwan, which like the Philippines is located in a seismic and typhoon belt,  states that  “natural disasters inflict damages on main structures and peripheral engineering” of  landfills.

According to the Taiwan EPA’s analysis of damages associated with 921 quake incidents, “earthquake magnitude 5 and over can damage landfill sites that are located in a fault or its surrounding areas.”

“Depending on the extent of damage of storage facilities (retaining walls), collapse, crack and incline of the foundation, retaining walls can get washed out, affecting the safety and leading to secondary pollutions,” the study said.

“Our analysis clearly indicates that for landfill sites struck by disasters, damages are accumulative and chain reactive; moreover, the potential hazard factors can still exist after the landfill sites are recovered,” the study pointed out.