27 June 2015

Toxics Watchdog Urges Manila LGU to Take Action against Street Sale of Poisonous Substances

Pictures taken on June 26, 2015 in Divisoria, Manila.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog group, appealed to Manila city authorities to take action against the unimpeded sale of poisonous substances on the streets, particularly in Divisoria.

The group aired its latest plea for action as the observance of the National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW) comes to an end.

NPPW, held every fourth week of June by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1777 issued in 2009, is observed “to increase awareness on the preventive aspects of poisoning prevention at home, school, work and the general environment”

The group expressed serious concern over the sale of repacked chlorine and oxalic acid in granular form from P20 up by street vendors in Ilaya, Santa Elena and Tabora Streets.

“Based on the market surveillance we conducted yesterday,  vendors have yet to stop selling repacked chlorine and oxalic acid in Divisoria,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As a preventive measure, we urge the Manila City Government to put a stop to this dangerous street trade of poisonous substances in unlabeled packets and not wait for more poisoning cases to occur,” he said.

“Aside from being sold without proper labeling information and precautionary warning, these repacked poisons are being sold alongside condiments thus increasing the risks of cross-contamination,” he added.

Oxalic acid has been blamed for the Ergo Cha Milk Tea House poisoning incident in Sampaloc, Manila on April 9 that killed the shop owner and one customer, prompting Manila Health Department operatives to seize sacks of repacked oxalic acid from Divisoria street vendors last month.

More recently, 41 public elementary school students in Cauayan, Negros Occidental were rushed to hospitals on June 10 after eating “bichokoy” (a local donut) sprinkled with white sugar mixed with oxalic acid.

Chlorine granules in water, on the other hand, ranked number nine in 2014 among the top 10 poison agents for admitted patients at the Philippine General Hospital, both for adult and pediatric cases, according to the National Poison Management and Control Center.

Used as bleaching or cleaning agent, oxalic acid and chlorine granules look like iodized salt or refined sugar, and form a colorless liquid when mixed with water.


25 June 2015

BOC, EMB Pushed to Reveal Content of Unclaimed Garbage Shipments from Canada

An environmental coalition has requested the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to publicly release the data gathered through a government study regarding the content of some 48 abandoned shipping containers loaded with garbage from Canada.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization promoting chemical safety, zero waste and the people’s right to know and right to participate in the conduct of public affairs, asked for full data disclosure through a common letter sent to the BOC Commissioner Alberto Lina and EMB Director Jonas Leones today.

“In keeping with our watchdog role as a public interest environmental NGO, we respectfully request the BOC and EMB to disclose the results of the waste analysis and characterization study (WACS) conducted last June 19 on 16 of the 48 unclaimed shipping containers of Canadian garbage now lying at Subic Port,”  said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The “plastic scraps” were imported from Canada by Live Green Enterprise, based out of San Fernando City in Pampanga, without prior importation clearance as confirmed by EMB.  The consignments arrived in four batches between December 2013 to January 2014 and had since then left unclaimed.

“The immediate disclosure of the WACS results, along with the photographs taken, will remove the veil of secrecy surrounding the study, which was conducted without the civil society and the media being informed and invited to observe the activity,” Lucero said.

The EcoWaste Coalition had previously suggested to BOC that such inspection be conducted in a transparent way.

BOC Commissioner Lina had earlier written to the EcoWaste Coalition expressing that “the BOC appreciates (the group’s) efforts to helping and supporting the Philippine government, particularly the Bureau, in battling the illegal trade of hazardous wastes.”

Lina assured that “this administration remains committed in curtailing the illegal importations of these articles and that our ports will continue to be vigilant in monitoring all shipments coming in to our country.”

“As the Philippines is not a dumpsite for residual wastes masked as ‘plastic scraps’ for recycling, we urge both the BOC and the EMB to push for the immediate return of the botched garbage shipments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada,” Lucero stated, reiterating a demand that is also shared by other concerned environmental, labor, church and party-list groups.  

The EcoWaste Coalition had rejected the disposal of the illegal garbage shipments in a landfill facility in Capas, Tarlac, describing it as “a brazen travesty of environmental justice.”

“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 EcoWaste Coalition told BOC and EMB.  

“We need not belabor the fact that our country is already producing too much domestic waste, which is projected to increase from 38,757 tons per day in 2014 to 39,422 tons per day in 2015, and that our landfills, rightly described as “glorified dumpsites” by critics, are bursting at the seams,” the group emphasized.  

What Pope Francis said in his encyclical letter “Laudato Si” that “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” resonates 100% in what is happening in our country today and that “permitting Canadian garbage to get disposed of locally would only aggravate the filthiness we find ourselves in,” the group noted.   
In their letter to the BOC and EMB, the EcoWaste Coalition called upon the government to determinedly exhaust all means to compel Canada to take back their trash.  

“This (the return of Canada’s trash) will demonstrate that our government means business when it comes to protecting the public health and the environment from illegal waste trade, and that garbage smugglers cannot get away with their criminal act with a mere slap on the wrist,” the group said.


Groups Vow to Keep Pressure on PH and Canadian Governments on Second Anniversary of Illegal Garbage Shipments

Environmental groups today vowed to step up the pressure to both the governments of Canada and the Philippines to fairly and speedily solve the problem with the illegal garbage shipments from Canada, now totalling 98, that are languishing in Manila and Subic ports.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy (Green Convergence) issued the statement coinciding with the second anniversary of the arrival of the first batch of Canadian garbage consignments on June 23, 2013

“We need to muster extra vigilance to compel Canada to take back their garbage and bring this scandalous smuggling of trash masquerading as ‘recycling’ to a close,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Traders of recyclables must ensure that only clean and properly segregated materials are sent here for non-toxic recycling, and not for disposal in landfills or other facilities.  The Philippines is no disposal site for global garbage,” she said. 

For her part, Dr. Angelina Galang, President of Green Convergence, said: “Para sa daang matuwid, kailangang tuwirin ang ating kapaligiran.  Ang  paglason sa tubig, hangin at lupa ng basura mula sa Canada ay kailangang tutulan ng ating gobyerno at pilitin ang gobyerno na maibalik ito sa kanilang bansa.”

Lucero expressed concern that dirty shipments that could not enter China due to their enforcement of more stringent regulations in 2013 might be being diverted to the Philippines.  “We should recognize this threat and act decisively to stop it,” she said.

To address the problem with the trade of low-quality imports that are supposedly used by the domestic recycling industry, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government and the industry to step up the collection of locally-generated plastic wastes that are available in large quantities for clean recycling.

It also asked the government to study and, if suitable, replicate China’s “Green Fence” policy adopted in 2013, which, to some extent, prevented dirty and poorly sorted  “recyclable” waste materials from entering the country, forcing companies to comply with the waste quality requirements and upgrade their operations to control environmental pollution.

In 2013, 50 container vans of heterogenous garbage materials, mostly residual plastics that can no longer be recycled, reached Manila in six batches with the first batch arriving on June 23 and the last batch on August 21.   

The Bureau of Customs (BOC), in coordination with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), has since impounded the illegal shipments, filing a smuggling complaint against Chronic Plastics, Inc., the consignee based in Valenzuela City, for breach of the Tariff and Customs Code and R.A. 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act. 

As the problem heats up with Canada’s unbending refusal to take back their garbage despite appeals from legislative, church, labor and civil society leaders, as well as from over 25,000 Canadian and Filipino citizens, the BOC uncovered yet another dubious shipments of plastic scraps.

The BOC reported that 48 unclaimed container vans of plastic scraps from Canada, consigned to Live Green Enterprise based in San Fernando City, Pampanga, entered the country in four batches in December 2013 to January 2014.

Subsequent waste analysis and characterization study conducted by the EMB last Friday showed that the latest garbage shipments of 48 container vans were “basically the same” as the previous 50 container vans, consisting of heterogenous plastic materials and other wastes.


Information sources re China’s “Green Defence:”

23 June 2015

Zero waste group lauds Sen. Legarda’s firm stance against incineration

Quezon City. “Clearly I’m not promoting incineration. [The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003} does not promote it.”

EcoWaste Coalition said in a press release today, quoting from Sen. Loren Legarda’s keynote speech at the opening yesterday of the week-long First National Integrated Waste Management Exhibition which was organized by the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

“We are glad that the good senator made it clear at the start of the exhibition that RA 9003 promotes ecological and not integrated waste management,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“It should be clear then that incineration such as waste-to-energy technologies that employ burning to recover energy should not be promoted,” she maintained.

“Combustion or incineration is among technologies that are allowed in the integrated solid waste management among waste disposal options,” she clarified.

According to the coalition, RA 9003, in Section 2 (d) declares clearly that the law is to “ensure the proper segregation, collection, transport, storage, treatment and disposal of solid waste through the formulation and adoption of the best environmental practice in ecological waste management excluding incineration.”

“Section 3 (dd) of the law, which promotes recovery of resources, including the generation of energy, also clarifies that incineration is not among the options,” stressed Lucero.

Lucero’s group was firm on their stance that Incineration is not sustainable as it perpetuates wasting by destroying resources, instead of recovering them for ecological management through recycling, composting, or reusing.

Through recycling, for example, aside from saving the material to be recycled, a lot more energy will be saved in the process compared to what incineration is capable of generating: Citing American zero waste and incineration expert Dr. Paul Connett, the coalition explained that “Recycling a ton of PET bottles will save 85.16 Gigajoules of energy, 26.4 times the energy that can be generated from incinerating the same input.”

Legarda in a separate press release renewed her call for the strict implementation of Republic Act 9003, which she principally authored, “stressing that local government units (LGUs) should aim for zero waste.”

She expressed that, unfortunately, 14 years after [RA 9003’s] passage, majority of LGUs have yet to comply with the provisions of RA 9003, particularly on decentralization of waste collection, submission of an SWM Plan, establishment of local SWM boards, establishment of Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF), closure of all open and controlled dumpsites, and mandatory waste diversion.

Taking the case of Manila Bay, Legarda said that “out of 178 LGUs … only 51 percent are compliant with segregation-at-source; 50 percent for segregated collection; 44 percent with functional MRFs…. Only two of the concerned LGUs have an approved 10-Year Solid Waste Management Plan.”

Legarda, alluding to Pope Francis’ encyclical, called on to authorities to "…veer away from the throwaway culture and aim for zero waste economy where the output of each resource use is converted into input for another use. Let us give nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to our duty as stewards of the earth so that we, and the generations to come, can live in a safe, clean, healthy and resilient world."






22 June 2015

Protect Kids from Household Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition Tells

In celebration of National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW), toxics watchdog EcoWaste Coalition issued a call this morning asking the public to shield their kids from hazardous household substances.

"To mark the start of the NPPW and in view of recent news reports of poisoning involving easily accessible toxic materials, like the stain remover oxalic acid in milk tea and donut incidents, we deem it well-timed to warn the general public to adopt measures to prevent poisoning especially of their unsuspecting children," said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

"The use of safe and environment-friendly alternatives to common toxic agents used in households mostly for cleaning purposes will eliminate a host of toxics from our homes," he expressed.

The coalition reverberated their message, "Lason ay Iwasan! Kalusugan at Kaligtasan para sa Kabataan!", spelled boldly on a big orange banner, during a seminar and workshop on common household hazardous substances and their health- and eco-friendly alternatives.

Dr. Erle Castillo, President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, one of the main speakers in the event, stressed that last year, admitted pediatric patients at the Philippine General Hospital due to poisoning incidents were mostly caused by such common household agents as kerosene, the bleaching agent sodium hypochlorite, silver jewelry cleaner, button battery, chlorine granules, and muriatic acid among others.

"By category, PGH listed household/cleaning agents as number 2, next to pharmaceuticals, among the most frequent causes of poisoning cases admitted in the hospital," said Dr. Castillo.

"A house is not a home when there are poisons lurking there," he added.

For her part, Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator of the Cavite Green Coalition and an officer of the EcoWaste Coalition, stressed that most common hazardous household agents can be done away with in the presence of alternatives that are not injurious to health and are eco-friendly.

"Many of us are not aware that alternatives are actually just as common as their toxic counterparts," she stated.

"One such alternative is the ubiquitous baking soda, which while normally used to puff up breads, can be utilized in as many as 51 other uses according to one source: from toothpaste to deodorant, from antacid to insect bite treatment, from boosting detergents to cleaning surfaces and appliances, and from deodorizing refs to cleaning dirt and residues from fruits and veggies," she cited as an example.

Tolentino during the seminar enumerated a host of common yet mostly overlooked non-toxic eco-friendly choices in lieu of toxic household agents. The following are some examples of her non-toxic substitute to hazardous ones: 

For general cleaning:

·    Four (4) tablespoonful of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water can serve as multi-purpose cleaner. Spray or apply it with sponge or rag on surfaces and wipe clean.
·     To polish glass windows, rub them clean with damp newspaper.
·     For stubborn dirt, mix one part vinegar and one part water, apply or spray on the glass and wipe until dry and shiny.

To freshen air:

·    Leave 2 tablespoonful of baking soda on a dish to absorb bad smell.
·    Place "sabila" (aloe vera) in the rooms to absorb toxins and freshen the air.
·    Simmer slices of calamansi, lemon or any citrus in season in a pot over low heat to rid the air of stale smell.
·        Create potpourri from available herbs, spices and indigenous flowers.

To clean floor:

·    For floor tiles and linoleum, mix ½ to 1 cup vinegar with 1 gallon hot water, apply and mop clean.
·    In place of the usual floor wax, polish wooden floors with banana leaves and scrub with "bunot".
·  To remove stubborn stains from the floor, mix 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water, apply, let stand, scrub and wipe clean.

For kitchen cleaning:

·     To remove burnt hardened food ("tutong") from cookware, sprinkle the bottom of the pot or pan with baking soda, add hot water, soak for a few hours as necessary, wash and rinse well.
·      Scrub burned pots and pans with "is-is" leaves or plain moist soil to remove the "uling" (char).
·      To remove grease and grime from pots and pans, make a paste of 3 tablespoonful of baking soda, water and a dash of salt. Dip a sponge into the paste, rub onto greasy parts, leave paste to dry, then rinse with hot water.
·    To clear a clogged drain, pour baking soda and then add boiling water. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water. For normal cleaning of basin and drain, use full-strength vinegar.
·      Place baking soda or pieces of charcoal in an open container inside the refrigerator to eliminate odors.
·      To neutralize unpleasant kitchen odors, boil a cup or two of vinegar in a small pot to absorb the smell.

To eliminate pests:

·     To drive cockroaches away, put some raw bay or pandan leaves in cupboards.
·    To make a cockroach trap, half fill a bottle with a sweet drink and add a tablespoon of oil. Bury the dead cockroaches afterwards.
·    To repel ants, crumble dry bay leaves in doorways and window sills; or mash chili in water, or mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water and apply to counter tops; or squeeze calamansi juice into holes or cracks where ants come from.
·     For houseflies, scratch the skin of an orange or other citrus fruit and leave out.
·    To drive mosquitoes away, plant malvarosa, marigold, basil, "tanglad" (lemon grass), or citronella around the house.

The seminar/workshop, which was conducted to raise public awareness on poison prevention as directed in the Presidential Proclamation No. 1777, Series of 2009, declaring every fourth week of June each year as National Poison Prevention Week, was participated in by barangay health workers, community leaders, informal waste sector members, representatives from local government units and civil society organizations.




In April 2015, two individuals in Sampaloc, Manila died after ingesting milk tea laced with oxalic acid.  In June this year, 41 students of a public elementary school in Cauayan, Negros Occidental were brought to hospitals for food poisoning after consuming “bitchokoy” (a local donut) sprinkled with white sugar mixed with oxalic acid.