30 April 2016

Three Presidential Bets to Help Informal Waste Workers Rise from Poverty

Presidential aspirants Grace Poe, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Mar Roxas, if elected, will carry out measures to improve the plight of the country’s army of informal waste workers.

The three candidates unveiled their thoughts to help impoverished informal recyclers through the responses they provided to the questions on wastes and toxics asked by the EcoWaste Coalition, a chemical safety and zero waste advocacy group.  The other two candidates, Jejomar Binay and Rodrigo Duterte, did not respond to the questions sent.

They were asked by the group about their plans to ensure that the informal waste workers are duly recognized for their contributions to the environment and the economy, and are provided with safe and secured jobs.

As per government definition the informal waste sector includes individuals, families, groups or small enterprises engaged in the recovery of waste materials to generate income.  They work under substandard and unhealthy conditions with no social and economic security and with limited access to basic services.

“Waste workers will benefit from the grant-for work program my administration will introduce to complement the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.  Through this initiative, we will indirectly formalize waste workers by enlisting them as agents contracted by the state,” Santiago said.

“The outcome of research and development funds that we will funnel to recycling and composting innovation is also expected to create job opportunities for waste workers,” the candidate of the People’s Reform Party added.

For Poe, “the economic and social contributions of the sector in reducing collection and disposal costs must be recognized and incorporated as part of the framework of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, and Redesign (5Rs) that governs waste management at the local level.” 

“Once the waste recovery activities of the informal waste sector are integrated into mainstream waste management, it must be ensured that they are given access to health services and education, as well as protective gear such as gloves and face masks to protect them from diseases due to their exposure to various types of biodegradable and chemical wastes, through a joint circular from the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” she said.

“Alternative livelihood opportunities must be provided for the informal waste sector, such as the establishment of recycling cooperatives, facilitating access to affordable finance to enable investment in micro and small enterprises, and providing skills development,” added Poe who is running under the Partido Galing at Puso.

According to Roxas of the Daang Matuwid Coalition, “the informal sector plays a very important role in recovering much of the usable portions of the waste and must be integrated into the formal solid waste management system of the  local government units (LGUs) to maximize the recovery of compostable, recyclables and reusable portions of the waste.”

“At the same time, through their integration, they will have access to health care services and other social services,” he pointed out.

“LGUs will be encouraged to make them part of the formal solid waste management program of the city/municipality and mobilize them to maximize waste recovery in the Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), which all LGUs are mandated by RA 9003 to set up,” he said.   

Roxas stressed that “budgets set aside for waste hauling should be recast to provide budgets for waste recovery instead.”


29 April 2016

Watchdog Gives Thumbs Up to Grace and Miriam for Upholding Incineration Ban, Scores Mar’s Pro-Incineration Stance

Presidential candidates Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor Santiago earned praises from a waste and pollution watchdog group for their strong positions upholding the incineration ban.

The EcoWaste Coalition lauded the two women presidential aspirants for their clear-cut stance to enforce the ban on waste incineration that is enshrined in two major environmental laws: Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act, and Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Through a questionnaire on wastes and toxics, the group asked presidential wannabes what steps they would take to stem the continuing violation of the incineration ban under the said laws, as well as the initiatives they would embark on to strengthen both laws.

In her response, Partido Galing at Puso candidate Poe, without mincing words, stated “only technologies that do not constitute incineration will be approved,” adding that she will “shut down existing incinerators that managed to circumvent the incineration ban.”

Candidate Santiago of the People’s Reform Party stated she will “immediately rescind the guideline that allows waste-to-energy facilities” to burn trash to generate electricity.  

The guideline, which is being crafted by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, drew ire of environmentalists as this will undermine the incineration ban and open the floodgates to burn technologies.  

On the other hand, the group found the response of Daang Matuwid candidate Mar Roxas disappointingly pro-incineration.

Roxas said that “as a general rule, laws must not ban technologies,” citing that “the Supreme Court decision has clarified that what is banned is incineration that emits toxic fumes,”  which  he said “must be strictly enforced.”

Contrary to his views, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed there is no such thing as a pollution-free incinerator and that such facilities, including their modern variants inevitably emit noxious and carcinogenic pollutants to the environment either via the smokestack or the ash generated by the combustion process.  

The group added that the views propounded by Roxas on the issue are exactly the same ones being used by incinerator pushers to circumvent the incineration ban.

To generate energy, Poe will “pursue energy diversification, focusing on renewables, geothermal, and natural gas, to eliminate the need for waste-to-energy facilities, reduce our dependence on coal and oil, and prevent or reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”

Poe also pledged to “strengthen the campaign for proper waste segregation (5Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, Redesign) at the barangay level to achieve zero waste or reduce residual waste that will be transported to sanitary landfills.”

“Strengthening waste segregation will create opportunities to build cooperatives and enterprises around composting, recycling, repairing, reusing, and repurposing of discards, and reduce residual waste that make their way to landfills,” she explained.

Santiago added she will “pursue the use of waste for renewable energy, but will limit such efforts to biomass.”

Santiago pointed out that the “slow movement toward the goals of the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act is an implementation issue.” 

“My government will address this, first by determining baseline data to identify appropriate strategies and to more effectively monitor progress. It will also help us know the costs of planned programs, so that we can identify alternative options, if necessary,” she said.

Finally, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented the ironic absence of responses to the survey from Vice President Jejomar Binay and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte whose long experiences  running their respective cities should have given them more informed  perspectives on how to tackle the waste crisis responsibly.


27 April 2016

Green Groups Woo Voters to Back Pro-Environment Poll Bets

Green groups today asked the electorate to back candidates who will protect the public health and the environment as the May 9 poll campaign enters the home stretch.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group championing the people’s right to chemical safety and healthy environment, led the call for a “green choice” at a creative voters’ education drive at Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.

Through a short play, children and  youth  belonging to Buklod Tao-Kabataan, Maskara-Green Stage Filipinas and Junior Chamber International-QC emphasized  the dire need for voters to pick candidates who genuinely care for the health of humans and the ecosystems. 

“We need women and men in public service who will stand for and defend our Mother Earth against greed, corruption, waste and pollution, as well as inaction.  Voters should rally behind them and make them win,” stated Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Please know your candidates and back those who you trust will take care of the environment,” she advised. 

“Failing to do so will make the environmental issues facing our nation, as well as their impacts to health and economy, even worse,” she warned.

Some of the issues highlighted in the play were the ever growing volume and toxicity of discards generated by the households and industries,  the illegal trash shipments from Canada and the proliferation of hazardous chemicals, products and wastes.

In the first tableau, performers were seen complaining about the widespread open dumping and open burning of trash across the country that is contaminating the environment with toxic pollutants and making people sick.

In the second tableau, performers were seen encouraging the electorate to pick for pro-environment candidates who will shut down illegal dumpsites, uphold the incineration ban, ship back the Canadian garbage and protect the people from toxic harm.

While it did not name the pro-environment candidates that the people should vote for, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to consider the results of the various civil society efforts to analyze and grade the environmental stance and track record of candidates,  especially those running for national positions.

Last week, the Green Vote 2016 Campaign, the  Green Thumb Coalition and the Luntiang Bayan released their respective environmental scorecards, particularly for  candidates eyeing the presidency.


25 April 2016

Presidential Candidates Vow to Enforce Waste Law (Grace Poe to chair first meeting of the National Solid Waste Management Commission in first 100 days of her presidency)

Three presidential contenders have revealed their immediate action agenda for the first 100 days, if elected, to address the nation’s perennial battle with garbage.

Responding to a question sent by the EcoWaste Coalition, a zero waste and climate justice advocacy group, Sen. Grace Poe, former Sec. Mar Roxas and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago vowed to initiate measures to promote and secure compliance by local government units (LGUs) to R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Candidates Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of PDP-LABAN and Vice-President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance did not respond to the group’s nine-point questionnaire on wastes and toxics.

“Since the National Solid Waste Management Commission(NSWMC) is under the Office of the President, I will co-chair its first meeting in my first 100 days in office with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and set its agenda towards effective waste prevention and reduction across the country,” declared Poe of Partido Galing at Puso.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted that a meeting of the NSWMC co-chaired by the President and DENR Secretary has never happened before since R.A. 9003 took effect in 2001 and could surely energize the work of Commission, which plays a pivotal role in the implementation of the law.  

Poe, who provided the most extensive reply among the respondents, said “the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary will, on behalf of the President, exercise its disciplinary power of general supervision over LGUs to exact compliance,” adding that “incentives and financial support will be provided as carrots to assist in compliance.”

Poe provided a sneak peek of her plan to bolster the implementation of R.A. 9003, including creating a nationwide communication strategy, establishing barangay-level materials recovery facilities, providing incentives for households that practice waste segregation, increasing the manpower and budget of the Environmental Ombudsman Team and making available the “Seal of Good Local Governance” scorecard to citizens to promote accountability among government officials.

Former Sec. Mar Roxas, the standard bearer of the Daang Matuwid Coalition said that he “will mobilize the DILG to do an audit of the compliance of LGUs to requirements of R.A. 9003, task the agency to work closely with the Environmental Ombudsman in filing the necessary charges against those found violating the law, and ensure step-in powers for the NSWMC once an LGU is unable to provide for the proper waste disposal facilities.”

Roxas added that “the existing performance evaluation systems of LGUand performance incentives being provided to LGUs must include compliance to R.A. 9003 as a criteria.

“My administration will support the prosecution of cases against LGUs that fail to close dumpsites as required by R.A. 9003," promised Santiago of the People's Reform Party. 

"But besides suing LGUs, we must also help them implement the law. The fact that 50 LGUs have failed to close dumpsites indicates either negligence on the part of local officials or impracticability of the law,” she observed. 

According to Santiago, one possible reason for the continued operation of dumpsites is the fact that many LGUs lack segregation, composting, and recycling facilities. 

“To remedy this problem, my administration will facilitate the implementation of recycling and composting programs at the barangay level,” she said. 

For her first budget proposal to Congress, Santiago will include a research and development allocation equivalent to one percent of the gross domestic product. 

“This budget will include DENR grants to barangays that can submit feasibility studies on recycling and composting innovations,” she added.


23 April 2016

Presidential Candidates Weigh In On Canadian Garbage Dumping Controversy

Presidential candidates Grace Poe, Mar Roxas and Miriam Defensor Santiago, if elected, will take specific measures to solve the long-drawn-out Canadian garbage scandal and prevent it from recurring.

In their response to the question put forward by the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, the three presidential aspirants specified measures that she or he will do in her/his first 100 days in office to ensure that the illegal waste shipments from Canada are sent back.

“If  elected,  I  will  invoke  the  Basel  Convention  to  force  Canada  to  take  back  the  trash it dumped on Philippine soil,” stated Santiago of the People’s Reform Party.

The Basel Convention, which the Philippines ratified in 1993, seeks to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, particularly the transboundary movements of such wastes between nations.

Santiago, who filed two resolutions at the Senate pertaining to the Canadian garbage dumping, emphasized “we must not process the waste in the Philippines, as it sets a dangerous precedent.”

“If we allow one country to turn the Philippines into a garbage dump, we are telling all other countries that they can do the same,” she pointed out.

Unlike outgoing President Benigno S. Aquino III, pro-administration “Daang Matuwid” bet Roxas was categorical in asking the Canadian government to ship back their garbage “at the soonest time possible.”

“While these were imported by a private company, they would not have reached the Philippines without clearance from concerned Canadian authorities. The Canadian government must be asked to assume equal responsibility to remove these waste materials from the Philippines at the soonest time possible,” he said.  

“We will task the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to send an official letter to Canada demanding them to take back all these containers which were imported in violation of Philippine laws and the Basel Convention,” he added.

For her part, Poe of the “Partido Galing at Puso” said her administration will “facilitate bilateral talks with the Canadian government to repatriate the wastes back to Canada.” 

She also said that she will “take immediate steps to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment to ensure clean production and no hazardous wastes are shipped from developed countries to developing countries for any reason.”

The Basel Ban Amendment is a revision to the Basel Convention that seeks to prohibit exports of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.

While Mayor Rodrigo Duterte failed to reply to the question sent by the EcoWaste Coalition, the PDP-Laban candidate had strongly spoken against the illegal entry of Canadian trash.  

He had suggested to Aquino to file a diplomatic protest against Canada over the garbage shipments.

Like Duterte, Vice-President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance did not respond to nine-point questionnaire on wastes and toxics that the EcoWaste Coalition sent to the five presidential bets.

Moreover, Santiago stressed that “the task of protecting the country from illicit or unwanted shipments rests on the shoulders of the Bureau of Customs (BOC),” adding that “in a way, the issue of imported trash from Canada is a corruption issue.”

“The BOC is so corrupt that it cannot perform its functions properly. The solution there is to appoint a few good men to run the BOC and for MalacaƱang to stop meddling with the bureau. Corruption at the BOC will cease only if not tolerated by Palace officials,” she said.


1.  This is the question that the EcoWaste Coalition asked presidential candidates to answer  regarding the Canadian garbage controversy.  This is part of the group’s nine-point questionnaire on wastes and toxics that the group sent to the presidential bets on March 30, 2016:

Between 2013-2014, a total of 103 shipping containers of mixed household garbage disguised as scrap plastics for recycling were illegally imported from Canada.  Twenty six of these garbage-filled containers were unlawfully disposed of at a landfill in Tarlac in 2015 until halted by angry citizens and officials.  If you get elected as President, what action will you do during your first 100 days in office to ensure that the illegal waste shipments from Canada are sent back?  What will you do to ensure that such appalling dumping incident does not ever happen again?  Will you support the rapid ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment?

2.  Sen. Grace Poe also mentioned that her administration will “pursue legal measures against Chronic Plastics owner Adelfa Eduardo and the company’s customs brokers Leonora Flores and Sherjun Saldon in violation of Republic Act 6969 (“Act to Control Toxic Substances and Hazardous Nuclear Wastes” and the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP) with regard to the illegal importation of waste.”

3.  Former Sec. Mar Roxas also said: “Moreover, if the Basel Ban Amendment will strengthen efforts to regulate trans-boundary transport of toxic and hazardous waste, then we will support its immediate ratification. This, however, may not be enough as it only covers toxic and hazardous waste trans-boundary shipment. Shipment of garbage materials for final disposal need to also be closely monitored by the Bureau of Customs.”

4.  In her response, Sen. Santiago cited the following provision from the Basel Convention:

“In case of a transboundary movement of hazardous wastes or other wastes deemed to be illegal traffic as the result of conduct on the part of the exporter or generator, the State of export shall ensure that the wastes in question are: (a) taken back by the exporter or the generator or, if necessary, by itself into the State of export, or, if impracticable, (b) are otherwise disposed of in accordance with the provisions of this Convention, within 30 days from the time the State of export has been informed about the illegal traffic or such other period of time as States concerned may agree. To this end the Parties concerned shall not oppose, hinder or prevent the return of those wastes to the State of export.”