27 September 2016

Groups Urge President Duterte to Wage War on Waste and Pollution

Green groups today urged President Rodrigo Duterte to wage a "War on Waste" and lay down an ecological and just waste and pollution prevention and reduction regime that protects public health and the environment a matter of national priority.

At a press conference in Quezon City, the groups exhorted the government to fast track the promulgation of policies, regulations and plans that it vowed to do to safeguard human health and the environment from the onslaught of wastes and pollutants.

The groups, composed of BAN Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace and Health Care Without Harm, represent the waste cluster of the Green Thumb Coalition (GTC), a broad alliance of Philippine environmental NGOs. Last April 2016, along with other "presidentiables" then-Mayor Duterte ranked as the third most progressive presidential candidate based on GTC's environmental survey questionnaire.

The groups recalled that last April 18, in response to GTC's pre-election questions, then presidential aspirant Mr Duterte wrote: "these (survey  responses) will be translated into a program of action with specific activities implemented and/or initiatives started in the first six months of the Duterte administration."

September 27 marks President Duterte's 90th day in office. However, halfway into his first six months, the groups observed that addressing waste issues do not seem to figure as among the administration's top priorities. Among the issues cited were: solid waste and plastics pollution, thermal waste-to-energy facilities, pollution prevention, electronic waste and the Canada waste issue.

"Having laws that outline the country's waste pollution problems are not enough if serious implementation is lacking. Rather than curing the problem with stop-gap measures, we urge the Government of the Philippines to address pollution through prevention measures at source, such as a pollution disclosure policy required of industries. Public access to information on industrial emissions not only identify problems at source, but also address the people's right to know.  Similarly, looking into requiring closed-loop production of electronics would minimize negative effects on the informal waste sector by requiring manufacturers who profit the most to also take responsibility for the e-wastes generated," said Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Detox Campaigner.

“We hope that this government will take plastic pollution, particularly its leakage into our waterways and marine environment, more seriously, and hold manufacturers and producers into account.  The proliferation and increase of single-use, disposable plastic products and packaging and its problematic disposal increase the burden of already-taxed local governments to deal with these problematic products on their own, as well as pave the way for the highly-toxic burning of plastic residuals in cement kilns and drive the irresponsible call to lift the incineration ban.  We call on the President to include a national ban on single-use plastic bags among his top legislative priorities,” stated Froilan Grate, Asia-Pacific Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

"We hope the President promptly lends support to the "war" Secretary Lopez is waging against enemies of the environment, especially against those who seek to sneak enacting policies such as the ‘Waste-to-Energy’ Guidelines that are deleterious to the environment as well as people's health, and also in clear violation of the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act," said Ayeth Enrile, Medical Waste Campaigner, Health Care Without Harm.

"Before elections, President Duterte was vehemently against Canada's dumping. He now needs to show he is a person of decisive action when it comes to waste," said Anna Kapunan, Campaigner for BAN Toxics. "The President should ensure that all the trash is immediately re-exported, that Canada accepts it, and Filipino taxes are not spent for its return. Also, the President should do as he promised and ensure the Basel Amendment ratification is a priority agenda of the Senate, in order to prevent any future dumping."

“During the last three months, waste concerns have taken a back seat to ‘bigger’ environmental issues and many of the campaign promises related to the enhanced enforcement of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, have yet to be realized.  We hope to see real solutions to our garbage woes sans incineration gaining more traction in the coming days and that Secretary Lopez will make good on her promise to go after non-compliant local government units,” noted Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The groups enjoined President Duterte and Secretary Lopez to jointly wage the “War on Waste” and for the entire society to support it.


26 September 2016

Environmental and Labor Activists Write to PM Trudeau to Push for the Re-Export of Illegal Canadian Trash

Environmental and labor rights advocates today wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ambassador Neil Reeder to appeal yet again for the return of the controversy-ridden illegal garbage shipments to its origin.

The letter was sent via e-mail to the Office of the Prime Minister in Ottawa City and the Embassy of Canada in Makati City and signed by officials of Ang Nars Party-List, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa and private individuals Raphael Lopez and Elaine Lucero.

The above public interest groups and private individuals were “complainants-in-intervention” to Criminal Case No. 14-311191 versus Canadian garbage importers Adelfa Eduardo and Sherjun Saldon for violation of R.A. 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous Nuclear Wastes Control Act.

The complainants wrote to Canada following a court order issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court (Branch 1) instructing the return to Canada of 50 container vans of residual and hazardous trash that were illegally shipped to the Philippines in the guise of “plastic scraps,”

They asked the Canadian government to support the court order issued by Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag, which an inter-agency committee, meeting last September 5 agreed to pursue as reported by the Bureau of Customs.  The Department of Justice, a member of the committee, will file a motion for the execution of the court order in the case hearing slated for September 30.

“We appeal to Prime Minister Trudeau to respect the court order and extend full cooperation to the Duterte administration to ensure the immediate re-export of their garbage back to Canada,” said Dr.
Leah Paquiz, former Ang Nars Party-List Representative to the 16th Congress.

The complainants urged the Canadian government to publicly withdraw the purported “local solution” announced by Ambassador Reeder in May 2015, wherein “the (Canadian) garbage (will be) treated locally.”   

“This ‘local solution’ is utterly distasteful and illegal as ruled by the court and will only deepen the unhealed wounds of environmental injustice,” said Rene Pineda of the EcoWaste Coalition.

In lieu of the so-called “local solution,” they urged Prime Minister Trudeau to fulfill the “Canadian solution” he alluded to in November 2015 on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in response to a question raised by journalist Tina Monzon Palma regarding the garbage dumping scandal.

“The ‘Canadian solution,’ now more than ever, must categorically include the re-importation of the illegal garbage shipments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada,” they said.

As stated by Judge Alisuag, “our country should not be made a trash bin by (an)other country,” which “will violate equally important environmental laws such as R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and R.A. 9275 or the Clean Water Act.”

As the aforementioned case is limited to only 50 of the 103 container vans of Canadian rubbish that illegally entered our ports, the complainants asked Trudeau to voluntarily ensure the repatriation of all the illegal garbage shipments.

“To avoid further embarrassment that would come with another legal decision, we suggest that Canada should just take back all its garbage, including those not covered by the said case,” they said.

The complainants also urged Canada to pay the Philippines for all the costs incurred in dealing with your garbage, and to fix the legal loopholes that allowed the unlawful export of Canadian trash to the Philippines, including ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment.

"We want to put this garbage dumping behind us, so our countries can turn over a new leaf in our bilateral relations.  Your government can bring this controversy to a close by doing what is just: take back your garbage and send no more trash overseas,” they told Prime Minister Trudeau and Ambassador Reeder.


24 September 2016

Environmental Scientist Points Out PH Lack of Capability to Test for Dioxins from Waste Incinerators


Amid noise triggered by a controversial government’s decision to allow “waste-to-energy” (WtE) technologies to burn garbage, a distinguished environmental scientist drew attention to the country’s lack of local capability to test and monitor dioxin releases from incinerators.

Speaking at a forum in Quezon City last Tuesday on the health and environmental impacts of thermal WtE technologies, Dr. Jorge Emmanuel pointed out that “the Philippines is not in a position to continuously, not even routinely, monitor dioxins,” which are some of the most toxic chemicals known to science.

A Balik Scientist from US and who is now an adjunct professor at Silliman University, Emmanuel said national government agencies (NGAs) such as the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Science and Technology do not have laboratories that can analyze for dioxins, requiring samples to be sent abroad to undergo the very expensive tests.

“Pollution control devices to scrub and filter out dioxins from the exhaust gases are very expensive and very costly to operate.  To cut down on costs, some vendors may under-design or underutilize or even eliminate pollution control devices.  Thus, it is essential to test for dioxins to independently validate the claims of vendors or manufacturers,” he emphasized.  “But tests are expensive and difficult to do accurately.”

If the NGAs are incapable of independently validating technology vendor claims and monitoring dioxin emissions, the same is true with local government units (LGUs), many of whom do not even have approved 10-year solid waste management plans and materials recovery facilities as required under the law, he noted.  

Dioxins, which are byproducts of waste combustion, are toxic at extremely small concentrations, concentrate up the food chain, stay at the environment for a long time and can travel long distances from the source of emission.

Dioxins are toxic at very low levels and are known to cause cancers, specifically chronic lymphocytic leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, as well as cancers of the lungs, larynx and trachea. 

Dioxins also cause birth defects, alter the reproductive systems of fetuses, impact the IQ of children, suppress the immune system, decrease fertility, cause ovarian dysfunction, and reduce the sizes of male genitalia.

“They are highly persistent in the environment, so any dioxins produced today will remain for up to 150 years if on top of the soil, more than 500 years if in bodies of water, and up to 1000 years if the dioxins are covered by a few centimeters of soil surface,” Emmanuel said.

The current Philippine limit is 0.1 ng I-TEQ/Nm3 which remains the international standard, but a few years ago the US EPA lowered its dioxin limits even further to 0.0099 to 0.027 ng TEQ/m3.  “The dioxin limits continue to be revised as new data come out,” he said.

“This suggests that in coming years, the internationally acceptable dioxin limit will go down further as new data compel us to promulgate more stringent limits to protect public health from a pollutant that will remain in our environment for hundreds of years,” he concluded.

Last June 9, 2016, the National Solid Waste Management Commission decided to adopt Resolution 669, which provides for the “Guidelines Governing the Establishment and Operation of WtE Technologies for Municipal Solid Wastes.”

Environmental health and zero waste groups have asked DENR Secretary Gina Lopez to revoke the controversial policy, which they insist is in violation of the ban against the incineration of municipal, biomedical and hazardous wastes under RA 8749 or the Clean Air Act.

In addition, the newly-formed Stop WtE Alliance also stressed that waste incineration runs counter to the spirit and intent of the country’s other pollution prevention and climate protection laws such as RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), RA 9729 (Climate Change Act) and RA 10121 ( Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act) as WtE adds to the carbon and other hazardous emissions in the atmosphere.


Notes re units of measurement:

ng TEQ/Nm3 = nanograms of dioxin toxic equivalent per Nm3 
Nm3 = normal meter cubed per hour
ngTEQ/m3 = nanograms of dioxin toxic equivalent per m3

m3 = cubic meter

23 September 2016

“Teflon Chemical” (PFOA) Warrants Global Action (UN Expert Committee also recommends global action on 3 other hazardous chemicals)


(Rome, Italy) A UN expert committee has determined that PFOA, commonly known as the “Teflon chemical,” warrants global action under the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty that bans the world’s most hazardous chemical pollutants.

In a consensus decision, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) agreed that PFOA “is presumed to be an immune hazard to humans” and linked to, “high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.” 

Experts concluded that PFOA does not degrade in the environment, is transported over long distances, and biomagnifies in animals, threatening the food chain. As a result, the expert group, noting a recent study concluded that, “a ‘safe’ concentration in the environment cannot be established.”

“PFOA is clearly a threat to human health and the environment, especially for communities across the world living in the PFOA-contaminated red zones,” said Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith, Advisor to IPEN and National Toxics Network. “The fluorochemical industry and their allies in governments can no longer hide behind a wall of secrecy and deceit. It’s time for accountability, cleanup, and compensation.”

PFOA now moves to the next year-long stage of evaluation by the Committee which includes investigation of alternatives and risk management options along with a formal recommendation to the Committee about listing PFOA in the treaty.

Other key decisions made by the POPRC at its twelfth meeting held from 19 to 23 September in Rome include:

Recommendation for a global ban on a toxic flame retardant is upheld, but many loopholes weaken the proposal

Last year, the POPRC agreed to recommend the global elimination of DecaBDE, a toxic flame retardant chemical widely used in electrical equipment and present in e-waste. However, this year the Committee bowed to pressure from the European and Canadian auto industries and included a large number of poorly-defined exemptions in order to continue its production and use. In addition, the UK proposed sweeping exemptions for military vehicles and aircraft, but withdrew their proposal after IPEN revealed they had colluded with industry lobbyists and submitted industry comments as their own.

“The European and Canadian auto industry associations demanded a long list of exemptions simply because they did not want to pay the cost of testing to validate the spare parts,” said Joe DiGangi, Senior Policy and Technical Advisor, IPEN. “This is an abuse of the Convention, especially when alternatives are widely available. We need a true global ban of this substance that completely stops production and use, deals with the millions of tons of e-waste dumped in developing countries, and closes all loopholes that would pollute our consumer products.”

Recommendation for a global ban of short-chained chlorinated paraffins

After years of delay, the POPRC finally recommended a global ban of short-chained chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs). No other POPs chemical has been produced in quantities as large as SCCPs. SCCPs are endocrine disruptors widely used in metal cutting, and are present in alarmingly high levels in many children’s products made of PVC, such as toys, children’s costumes, and stickers. SCCPs are suspected to cause cancer in humans and are found in the animals that serve as essential traditional foods for Arctic Indigenous Peoples. Technically feasible, cost-effective, alternatives are available for all known uses including many viable non-chemical alternatives.

“SCCPs are out of the public eye, but contaminate the bodies of people around the world,” said Pam Miller, IPEN Co-Chair and Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “Now it is time to eliminate this dangerous chemical without exemptions.”

Dicofol warrants global action

Dicofol is a pesticide that uses DDT in its production and is found in milk, baby formula, eggs, fruits, vegetables, human breast milk, and blood. Dicofol is very toxic to aquatic animals and causes reproductive damage in birds. It is an endocrine disruptor and suspected human carcinogen. The POPRC agreed that, “Dicofol as a result of its long-range environmental transport is likely to lead to significant adverse environmental effects and may lead to significant adverse human health effects, such that global action is warranted.”

“We are now one step closer to a global ban of this antiquated organochlorine, first cousin to, and contaminated with, DDT,” said Dr. Meriel Watts, Pesticide Action Network (PAN). “An important next step is to identify alternatives to Dicofol, particularly non chemical alternatives that can be used safely in sustainable agriculture.”

Failure to recommend treaty action on hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)

Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) is unintentionally formed and released from industrial processes including incineration and the production of certain chlorinated chemicals and magnesium. In 2015, China blocked addition of HCBD to the part of the treaty dealing with unintentional production, citing the need for more information. The Committee gathered information justifying action under the Convention but failed to recommend action under Convention, consistent with the push in 2015 by China.

“The current decision gives the governments the impression that the Committee no longer thinks unintentional emissions of HCBD are important – even though all their reports indicate these represent almost all emissions of HCBD,” said Joe DiGangi, IPEN. “At the upcoming Conference of the Parties, governments should proceed to add HCBD to the treaty for action on unintentional releases.”

Industry influence

Finally, this year’s meeting was characterized by industry influence on the positions and decisions of members and government representatives. “Although there were positive results from the meeting, broad-ranging requests for exemptions by industry were carried and defended by government representatives even while recently peer-reviewed scientific papers and public data were excluded to the detriment of scientific accuracy and disclosure,” stated Pamela Miller, IPEN Co-Chair. “It is troubling to witness the complicity of public government agency representatives whose primary mission is to protect human health and the environment, and it raises ethical concerns about the undue influence of industry in the POPRC process.”

The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) is a subsidiary body to the Stockholm Convention established for reviewing chemicals proposed for listing under the Treaty. The POPRC conducts a review process for proposed chemicals and makes a decision on whether the chemical is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and/or environmental effects such that global action is warranted. If global action is warranted, the POPRC conducts an in-depth review of the chemical. Following this review, the POPRC then makes recommendations to the Conference of the Parties for the listing new chemicals. Members of the POPRC are government-designated experts in chemical assessment or management.

22 September 2016

DENR Sec. Lopez Urged Not to Open Floodgates for Technologies that Burn Discards

Photo by Manny Palmero, Manila Standard
Groups opposed to “waste-to-energy” (WtE) technologies that incinerate discards urged Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez to revoke a controversial policy that will undermine efforts to prevent and reduce waste and pollution.

Resolution 669, which the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) adopted on June 9, 2016 before Lopez took over the DENR, provides for the “Guidelines Governing the Establishment and Operation of WtE Technologies for Municipal Solid Wastes.”  

As DENR Secretary, Lopez serves as concurrent chairperson of the NSWMC, which is tasked to oversee the implementation of solid waste management plans and prescribe policies to achieve the objectives of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“We admire Sec. Lopez’s passion to protect Mother Earth, but embracing WtE technologies that incinerate discards is not the way to go as this is contrary to her vision for a ‘cleaner, healthier and happier’ Philippines,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We request her to revoke NSWMC Resolution 669 and instead pursue pro-people Zero Waste solutions to clean up and restore the environment, while creating life-sustaining recycling jobs and enterprises,” she said.

Through a petition e-mailed to the Office of the DENR Secretary on September 22, over 60 groups and individuals expressed dismay over the adoption of the said resolution “as this could open the floodgates for WtE plants that burn waste materials, undermining community efforts toward a Zero Waste and toxic-free society.”

A related petition signed by groups belonging to the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Health Environment and Sustainable Economy and the Green Thumb Coalition was also submitted to Lopez last September 1.

The latest petition was signed on September 20 following a forum on the environmental and health impacts of thermal WtE technologies with resource person Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, an adjunct professor at Silliman University and a Balik Scientist of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

“Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999 prohibits the incineration of municipal, biomedical and hazardous wastes, which process emits toxic and poisonous fumes, while Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 requires the adoption of best environmental practices in ecological waste management excluding incineration,” the petition stated.

“Gasification, plasma arc, pyrolysis, cement kiln co-processing and other burn WtE technologies go against the  incineration ban under RA 8749 and run counter  to the ecological solid waste management  promoted by  RA 9003,” it pointed out.

According to the petition, “burn WtE technologies tolerate the generation of more wastes and their disposal to ensure nonstop supply of feedstocks to make facility operations profitable,” adding that, “the use of mixed wastes as feedstocks discourages  resource conservation, segregation at source, reusing, recycling and composting.” 

“Burn WtE facilities convert mixed discards into  toxic ash requiring special disposal as hazardous waste as such ash is contaminated with dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants, mercury, lead and other toxic metals and other harmful substances,” it said.

The petition emphasized that “burn WtE plants discharge extremely toxic pollutants to the air, water and soil, particularly dioxins that are formed by burning chlorine-based chemical compounds with hydrocarbons, that the government has no capability to monitor on a continuous basis.”

“Investments in waste prevention and reduction, source separation, extended producer responsibility, informal recycling sector and other initiatives will lead to a progressive reduction on the volume and toxicity of waste sent for disposal,” it  further said.