28 May 2020

Banning Waste Imports Urged to Protect PH from Becoming a Garbage Bin for Other countries (Groups pursue ban on waste trade as the first anniversary of the re-exportation of Canadian garbage dumped in the Philippines on May 31 nears)

Civil society groups marked the first anniversary of the repatriation of 69 container vans of rotting Canadian garbage to their source with a resounding plea for decisive policy actions to prevent its recurrence and to defend environmental justice and the rule of law.

In a joint statement released ahead of the May 31 anniversary, the EcoWaste Coalition, RightOn Canada and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) called on both Canada and the Philippines to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, an international law forbidding the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries for reuse, recycling, recovery or disposal.

“While bulk of the garbage had been returned to Canada a year ago, the threat to public health and the environment from imported waste persists.  Despite earlier pronouncements, the government has yet to formally invalidate old regulations allowing the entry of electronic, plastic and other hazardous wastes into our ports under the veil of recycling,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To put an end to this iniquitous practice, we renew our appeal to the authorities to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, disallow the importation of waste, and step up efforts to ensure the environmentally sound management of waste materials generated by our own industries, institutions and households,” she added.

"Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment is a fundamental next step for both the Philippines and Canada to prohibit hazardous waste trade,” said Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisor, IPEN, a global environmental network that counts EcoWaste Coalition and RightOnCanada among its partners. "However, if the Philippines really wants to avoid becoming a waste bin for other countries, it needs a comprehensive ban on all waste imports,” he pointed out.  

Kathleen Ruff, Founder and Director of RightOnCanada, who was instrumental in obtaining a legal opinion confirming that the export of Canadian garbage to the Philippines constituted illegal traffic under the Basel Convention, said that "UN Conventions, such as the Basel Convention are very important. But it required the support of Filipinos and the determined activism of the civil society to make the Canadian government finally, after six years, fulfill its obligations under the Basel Convention and take back its wastes.”

Under the Basel Convention, Canada is legally obliged to ensure that wastes illegally exported to a developing country like the Philippines are returned to Canada by the exporting company or by the government within 30 days of having been notified by the receiving country.

“Citizens and environmental organizations need to stay involved and active if we are to achieve environmental justice,” Ruff said, stressing “it is time for Canada and all countries to support the Basel Ban Amendment and finally stop the destructive and unjust practice of wealthy countries exporting their wastes to developing countries.”

To recall, 103 shipping containers loaded with over 2,400 tons of waste from Canada -- falsely declared as scrap plastics for recycling -- arrived in the Philippines between 2013 - 2014.  Inspection conducted by customs and environmental authorities revealed mixed plastics, electronic waste, household trash, and used adult diapers among the intercepted cargoes.  A subsequent waste analysis and characterization study (WACS) by the government found 64 per cent of the analyzed materials as residuals, or garbage that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.  

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted the dumping issue in two subsequent trips to the Philippines in 2015 and 2017, but refused to commit to re-importing the illegal waste shipments. His predecessor Stephen Harper failed to settle the issue before finishing his term.

In 2019, the Canada-based Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation at the request of RightOnCanada issued a legal opinion that found Canada’s refusal to take back its garbage constituted illegal traffic, among other violations of the Basel Convention.

On April 23 last year, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened war against Canada over the unresolved garbage scandal, recalling its ambassador and other embassy officials after Canada missed the May 15 deadline.

On May 31, the 69 containers of Canadian garbage eventually left the Port of Subic north of Manila on board M/V Bavaria.  The trash shipments reached the Port of Vancouver on June 29 and transported for disposal at the Burnaby waste-to-energy incinerator.

Before this, wastes from 26 containers were unlawfully disposed of in 2015 at a private landfill facility in Tarlac province without the approval of the local government, infuriating local officials and residents. 

The other eight containers could not be located despite the EcoWaste Coalition filing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request in 2019 to know where the missing garbage went.

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ABOUT:

EcoWaste Coalition is a non-profit network of over 140 groups promoting a zero waste and toxics-free society where communities enjoy a safe and healthy environment  (http://www.ecowastecoalition.org/http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com/).

International Pollutants Elimination Network is the global environmental network of nearly 600 public interest NGOs in over 125 countries working to eliminate and reduce the most hazardous substances to forge a toxics-free future for all (http://www.ipen.org/). 

RightOnCanada is a project of the Rideau Institute, an independent research and advocacy group based in Ottawa, providing research, analysis and commentary on public policy issues to decision makers, opinion leaders and the public (https://rightoncanada.ca/). 

27 May 2020

COVID-19 Not an Excuse to Disregard National Ban against Open Burning

A waste and pollution watchdog group has reiterated the need to strictly observe the national ban on open burning stipulated in two major environmental laws amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The EcoWaste Coalition reiterated the prohibition on open burning after discarded materials belonging to persons allegedly afflicted with COVID-19 were recently set on fire at a vacant lot in Barangay Loma de Gato, Marilao, Bulacan.

“The dangerous and polluting practice of burning materials in the open is banned under R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003.  The COVID-19 crisis is no excuse to disregard the ban on open burning, a process that emits and releases toxic pollutants which can put the health of people at risk," said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

R.A. 8749, or the Clean Air Act, and R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, are major pollution prevention laws enacted by Congress in 1999 and 2000 to protect public health and the environment.

R.A. 8749 states that "no person shall be allowed to burn any materials in any quantities, which shall cause the emission of toxic and poisonous fumes," while R.A. 9003 lists "the open burning of solid waste" as a prohibited act.

"Open burning is an unlawful act that exposes the surrounding community, especially the vulnerable groups, to health-damaging pollutants in the smoke and ash,  It may, in fact, worsen the breathing difficulties being experienced by people suffering from respiratory illness or those who have contracted the coronavirus," Benosa added. 

For his part, Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, explained that “the burning of discards, especially those made of plastic and chlorinated materials, yields highly toxic pollutants such as dioxins and furans, which are targeted for global reduction, if not elimination, under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

According to a project led by the  Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that addresses unintentional POPs from open burning, "exposure to dioxins and furans can cause ill effects in humans: cancer, severe reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system and hormonal systems, and skin disorders, among others."  

Open burning also produces other pollutants of concern, including particulate matter, heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde and greenhouse gases, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

These chemical pollutants are known to cause a variety of adverse health effects such as eye, throat and skin irritation, headaches, respiratory ailments, asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks, cancers and other diseases, the group said.

Fetuses, young children, the elderly, individuals with chemical sensitivities and others with underlying medical conditions are prone to the negative health effects of open burning, the group warned.

For the management of potentially infectious waste, the group advised barangay officials to coordinate with the municipal or city authorities for the safe collection and disposal of such waste.

For household healthcare waste such as used masks and gloves, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) advised proper disinfection before disposal to reduce the risk of contamination, particularly among garbage collectors.

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Reference:

Note: The story about the open burning incident at Barangay Loma de Gato, Marilao, Bulacan, as reported by GMA’s news program “24 Oras” last May 25, can be viewed here:   
https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/video/24oras/533185/pagsunog-sa-mga-gamit-ng-covid-19-patients-sa-isang-bakanteng-lote-iimbestigahan-ng-marilao-lgu/video/  

https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2001/01/26/republic-act-no-9003-s-2001/ 

http://pab.emb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/RA-8749-IRR-DAO-2000-81.pdf  

https://emb.gov.ph/waste-segregation-advisory/

http://nswmc.emb.gov.ph/?page_id=21  

26 May 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Emphasizes Proper Waste Segregation as Business Establishments Re-Open

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society, requested the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to highlight waste segregation at source in the rules to be issued by designated departments governing the resumption of business.

“As the government prepares guidelines for the re-opening of most business establishments following months of limited or non-operation, we suggest to concerned agencies to include provisions on mandatory separation of waste materials at the point of generation,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We urge the authorities to make source separation as part of the ‘new normal’ to achieve the interconnected objectives of conserving resources and protecting waste workers from coronavirus infection,” he said.

“We cannot let our guard down as the risk of coronavirus exposure remains high,” he pointed out, adding that “the virus is believed to persist in surfaces, including waste materials, for up to several days.” 

“The issuance of guidelines requiring waste segregation at source will minimize the cross-contamination of discarded materials and reduce occupational exposure to the virus,” he said.

The group cited the “Health and Safety Guidelines Governing the Operations of Accommodation Establishments Under the New Normal” issued last May 22 by Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat as an example.

As stated in DOT Memorandum Circular No. 2020-002, accommodation establishments such as hotels, resorts, apartment hotels, tourist inns, motel, pension houses, private homes used for homestay, ecolodges, serviced apartments, condotels, and bed and breakfast facilities, are required to put trash bins inside the guest room, requiring further that “a separate trash bag or bin intended for used personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face mask,  gloves and other sanitation waste materials must be provided.”

The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) had earlier released a “Waste Segregation Advisory” informing the public that the "proper handling of household healthcare wastes such as used face masks and gloves that are considered as special wastes will help stop the spread of COVID-19.”


The EMB likewise directed local authorities “to ensure compliance of their constituents with the proper segregation, handling and disposal of wastes” in line with the requirements of Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and Republic Act No. 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act. 

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Reference:

Link to the EMB advisory:
https://emb.gov.ph/waste-segregation-advisory/

Link to the DOT memorandum circular:
https://www.facebook.com/CindysEventsandCatering/photos/pcb.3104667562957449/3104666999624172/?type=3&theater

Source of information re presence of coronaviruses on inanimate objects:
G.Kampfa, D. Todt, S.Pfaender, E.Steinmannb. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. Journal of Hospital Infection Volume 104, Issue 3, March 2020, Pages 246-251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhin.2020.01.022  

22 May 2020

Groups Commend Phase-Out of Mercury-Containing Dental Fillings in the Philippines (Newly-issued DOH policy banning dental amalgam draws cheers amid the coronavirus crisis)

A new policy promulgated by the Department of Health (DOH) phasing out dental amalgam, a tooth filling material containing approximately 50% mercury, has received roars of approval from advocacy groups within and outside the Philippines.

Last May 14, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III signed DOH Administrative Order No. 2020-0020 titled “Guidelines on the Phase-Out of Mercury Use in Dental Restorative Procedures” in line with the goals of Republic Act 11223, or the Universal Health Care Act, and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.

Under this groundbreaking policy, the use of dental amalgam will no longer be allowed after the phase-out period of three years from the effectivity of the said order.  The directive bans the importation of liquid mercury and dental amalgam for dental restorative procedures, and further bans the use of dental amalgam for children 14 years old and below, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

“DOH A.O. 2020-0020 sets a clear path to the country’s transition to mercury-free dentistry.  We laud its development in consultation with stakeholders and its eventual adoption as a milestone in the implementation of the Minamata Convention in the Philippines despite the country’s long-overdue ratification of this treaty,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, which is campaigning for the phase-out of mercury-added products in the market and the safe management of their associated wastes.

US-based Atty. Charlie Brown, President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry said: “We congratulate the government, the civil society and the dental community for this landmark policy issuance.  This is a giant step toward phasing out the use of dental amalgam and phasing up the use of mercury-free alternatives, which can very well serve as a model for ASEAN member states.”      

“This sets a remarkable precedent and really pushes the agenda further for international negotiations where it can be shown that mercury-free dental healthcare is possible,” said Lee Bell, Mercury Policy Adviser, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN).  “The enforcement of this policy will also restrict the flow of mercury that might be unlawfully diverted from dentistry to artisanal and small-scale gold mining,” added Lee who is based in Australia. 

Under the order, dental amalgam capsules in combined, pre-dosed encapsulated form and for single use only will be allowed during the phase-out period for use by government dental units, local dental schools and private industrial dental clinics.

All manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, retailers, waste generators and users, including dentists, dental schools and researchers, are required to phase out dental amalgam during the designated three-year period.  

According to the order, dental amalgam waste in dental clinics and dental schools will be collected, stored and disposed of in accordance with the rules and regulations for the management of hazardous waste and by an accredited waste transporter and treatment, storage and disposal facility.

DOH A.O. 2020-0020 takes effect 15 days after posting in the official website, its publication in a newspaper of general circulation and submission of a copy to the Office of the National Registry of the University of the Philippines Law Center.

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Reference:

https://dmas.doh.gov.ph:8083/Rest/GetFile?id=653374

http://www.congress.gov.ph/legisdocs/ra_17/RA11223.pdf

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/News/fromtheConvention/MinamataConventionAgreedbyNations/tabid/3463/language/en-US/Default.aspx

http://intl.denr.gov.ph/images/FileUploads/Minamata%20Final%20Ratification%20Dossier.pdf

ABOUT:

EcoWaste Coalition is a non-profit network of over 140 groups promoting a zero waste and toxics-free society where communities enjoy a safe and healthy environment (www.ecowastecoalition.org, http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com).

World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry is a coalition of consumer, dental, and environmental organizations working together to phase out amalgam use  
(https://mercuryfreedentistry.net/).

International Pollutants Elimination Network is the global environmental network of nearly 600 public interest NGOs in over 125 countries working to eliminate and reduce the most hazardous substances to forge a toxics-free future for all (www.ipen.org).

21 May 2020

Groups Urge LGUs to Gear Up for Post-COVID Anti-Tobacco Programs

Two health and environmental organizations issued a common plea to all local government units (LGUs) to strengthen their tobacco prevention and control programs to protect their constituents from the lingering threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) even after the quarantine restrictions are lifted.

In a press statement, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH Philippines) and the EcoWaste Coalition pointed to the vital need to reinvigorate existing programs as experts have warned that smokers are likely to develop severe coronavirus disease compared to non-smokers.

"We urge lawmakers to pass or reinforce a comprehensive tobacco control policy to protect the people from the lingering threat of COVID-19 even after the quarantine has been lifted,” said pulmonologist Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director, ASH Philippines

Intensified grassroot-level programs to combat tobacco consumption and addiction will help LGUs in accomplishing their health and environmental objectives, the groups emphasized ahead of the observance of the World No Tobacco Day on May 31.  

Such programs may include mass-reach communications drive, population-specific interventions, action against illegal trade of tobacco products, anti-butt littering campaigns, and the active enforcement of related laws such as President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 26 providing for the establishment of smoke-free environments in public and enclosed places.

"Smoking compromises the immune system making it harder to fight infection. Therefore, smokers are more likely to contract the virus compared to non-smokers, and they are more vulnerable to developing severe symptoms when exposed to the disease. We also need to urge people to quit smoking during times like this as we cannot afford to have more people getting sick," added Limpin

For his part, Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, said “the energetic conduct of tobacco control programs by the LGUs will contribute to protecting human health and the environment from cigarette butts, the most visible toxic litter in our surroundings,” adding “we can curb the disposal of these small but hazardous pollutants on our streets, beaches and dumps by helping citizens to quit or not to start smoking.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) had earlier warned that smoking may increase the risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19 due to compromised lung health. Tobacco weakens the respiratory system and destroys some of the lung's natural defense mechanisms making smokers more vulnerable to contagious diseases.

According to WHO, smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth. Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness.

As explained by WHO, COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19.

Available research suggests that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death, the WHO said.

Based on information from WHO, tobacco kills more than 8 million people globally every year. More than 7 million of these deaths are from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

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Reference:

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/11-05-2020-who-statement-tobacco-use-and-covid-19

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco