22 October 2007

Groups urged to protect, not to dump in Cavite's protected area

22 October, 2007. Quezon City, Philippines- Ecogroups call on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) that its regional office gave to Cavite sanitary landfill to be built within Mt. Palay-palay/Mataas na Gulod National Park, the province's biggest protected area which is teeming with unique biodiversity and high endemism of wildlife.

The said sanitary landfill will be built in barangay Sapang in Ternate, Cavite and is within the protected zone of Mt. Palay-Palay, which has been declared as a protected area by virtue of Proclamation 1594 on October 1976.

Environsave Incorporated, the landfill proponent, managed to secure an ECC for the project last September 26, 2007 despite the huge opposition from the residents of Ternate, Cavite and different zero waste advocates. The said project is also being pushed by Cavite Governor Ayong Maliksi and will serve, initially, as the dumping ground of municipal wastes of the province. Five quarry sites have already been operating inside the protected area with a permit from the provincial government.

“It is irresponsible to put a hazardous facility like a sanitary landfill in an area that in the first place should be a priority for conservation. The forests of Mt. Palay-palay and Mataas na Gulod have been the major water source of thousands of generations of CaviteƱos and hosts some of the magnificent natural treasures of our country that we cannot find anywhere else in the world,” said Ochie Tolentino, coordinator of the public network Cavite Green Coalition (CGC).

Dressed as Rufous Hornbills, the residents and activists from the CGC and EcoWaste Coalition staged a creative protest outside of the DENR to call the department to junk the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of the project and to uphold and protect the rich biodiversity of Cavite.

“Sanitary landfills will contaminate the huge water reservoir of the Mt. Palay-palay forest that provides clean water to the people of Ternate and many parts of Cavite. Also the hazardous releases of the landfill such as leachate and toxic fumes will have a great impact in the flora and fauna of the area. This toxic facility must be stopped!” said Tolentino.

A resident of Mt. Palay-palay, the Rufous hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), locally known as kalaw, is classified as near threatened and is listed in the red list of threatened species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Mt. Palay-palay Natural Park also hosts at least 123 species of wildlife. Thirty one percent (31%) of these are endangered or threatened such as the Luzon Bleeding Heart, Philippine Falcon, Blue Naped Parrot, Philippine Woodland Frog etc. (1)

The area's rich biodiversity concentration also prompted the Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the DENR to classify Mt. Palay-palay as biologically important and a conservation priority area (2).

Last October 18, more than 2,000 citizens of Ternate went to the streets to denounce the proposed sanitary landfill to be built in their town.

“We do not need to build additional landfills and spend meager public funds to finance hazardous facilities such as landfills. Our government officials should stop focusing their attention on convincing poor communities to be their dumping ground. Instead, they should concentrate their efforts on how to strengthen and assist their barangays to do ecological solid waste management as defined in our law,” said Rei Panaligan, coordinator of the Ecological Waste Coalition.

The ecogroups also declared that landfills should not be built on critical areas and cited the closure of the San Mateo Landfill in Rizal province by the Supreme Court.

In its decision in December 13, 2005, the high court en banc nullified Proclamation 635 of former President Fidel Ramos to use a portion of the Marikina Watershed as a sanitary landfill for Metro Manila. Instead, the court highlighted RA 9003 which orders the closure of dumps and landfills located within an aquifer, groundwater reservoir and watershed area.

“All existing so-called sanitary landfills here in the country violate the law by catering to mixed wastes and have become toxic generators, producing leachate that seep into the groundwater or methane gas that aggravates the climate change,” said Panaligan.


1: Mt. Palaypalay Profile: http://calabarzon.denr.gov.ph/real/PAsite/palaypalay.html

2: Phil Biodiversity Conservation Priorities- Final Report by DENR-PAWB, CIPHIL and BCP-UP CIQS.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376

09 October 2007

Groups Demand Cancellation of Toxic Debt in 2008 Budget

QUEZON CITY. Philippines- Non-governmental organizations today lined up hospital beds complete with ‘patients’ at the lobby of the House of Representatives to dramatize their call to lawmakers to strike out payments for the Liechtenstein/German-made medical waste incinerators provided by the Austrian government and to augment the health budget in the proposed 2008 National Government Budget.

The Ecological Waste Coalition of the Philippines (EcoWaste), Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) said the loan, worth half a billion pesos of incinerators for 26 public hospitals to “help” in the proper disposal of medical waste was illegitimate and a waste of money. The said loan agreement was contracted in 1997 by Bank Austria and the Philippine Government coursed through the Department of Finance (DOF).

“We urge our legislators to strike out the payments for this loan project in the budget pending a thorough investigation that will eventually lead to its repudiation. We also demand the payment for this debt be allotted instead to augment the measly budget of the health sector,” FDC Secretary General Milo Tanchuling said.

“We are paying a lot of money for this debt which provided absolutely zero benefit to us except for the fact that it poses a clear danger to our environment. The project is truly a classic example of an illegitimate debt—debts claimed to us which financed ill-conceived development projects which are obviously not only on the pipeline but are detrimental to the people and environment’s interest,” Tanchuling said.

FDC said the proposed repayment for 2008 is $ 2.02 million or P 93.697 million. Interest payment next year, which is part of the budget, is $ 368.75 million while principal payment, which is an off-budget item, is $ 1,652.76 million. EcoWaste, Greenpeace, HCWH and FDC want both payments suspended.

The incinerators, which Greenpeace Southeast Asia claimed were substandard and did not meet the emission levels guaranteed by the supplier, had all been retired in 2003, when the incineration ban promulgated by the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 (CAA) took effect and when the DOH failed in its attempt to exempt them from the ban. They were part of the DOH’s project dubbed “The Austrian Project for the Establishment of Waste Disposal Facilities and Upgrading of the Medical Equipment Standard in DOH Hospitals.”

The loan that financed the purchase of the incinerators would have to be paid until 2014, with payments amounting to roughly US$ 2M per year.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, Chairperson of the powerful Committee on Appropriations also confirmed this contention during the formal opening of the House of Representatives’ plenary debates on the budget last week.

For his part, Ronnel Lim of Health Care Without Harm said: “As part of Austrian Official Development Assistance (ODA), the project’s purpose had the lofty goal of helping Philippine hospitals safely dispose of medical waste. But instead of helping, the ODA just exacerbated the problem. In the joint Department of Health (DOH)-World Health Organization (WHO) emission test conducted on one of the incinerators, the dioxin emission was a whopping 870 times over the limit set by the CAA. Now, we not only have a medical waste problem, we have an illegitimate debt that needs to be paid.”

“The Austrian people should call the attention of their government on this environmentally unjust loan extended as an ODA on behalf of them,” added Lim.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376

08 October 2007

Coalition calls for junking JPEPA

MANILA. Philippines- Members of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition called today on the senators to immediately quash the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) after the government panel defending it failed again to convince the senators for the fourth time in a series of hearings being conducted by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Manny Calonzo of the Eco Waste Coalition of the Philippines said that given the dismal performance of the senior government panel defending the agreement in the Senate, the proper thing to do is to reject the preferential trade agreement at the committee level and urge the whole Senate to junk it.

We fully support Senator Miriam Santiago in her suggestion to wish the JPEPA into oblivion. There is actually no more need for further hearings because the government simply cannot present solid benefits if we ratify JPEPA. We are simply prolonging the agony of the government,” said Calonzo.

According to Ronnel Lim, program officer of Health Care Without Harm, “The Executive should cut and cut cleanly, save whatever face is left of the Japanese and the Filipino negotiators and abandon the futile attempt to sell an atrociously bad agreement. Not only is the JPEPA bad for the environment with regard to waste importation, there is also no solid economic benefit that could be said to counterweight the grave damage to public health if the agreement is ratified. The health of the Filipino people should not be traded away to Japan for free.”

The Coalition also bewailed the fact that Japan gave markedly better terms to other countries in Southeast Asia. During the last hearing on the movement of natural persons, Leah Paquiz, president of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), pointed out that the Indonesian nurse is only required two years work experience while the Filipino nurse is required three years to qualify as a nursing trainee in Japan.

We are the equal of our Japanese and Indonesian peers. Why is Japan treating us as inferior? Why did our negotiators allow this to happen? The JPEPA is extremely unacceptable in its discrimination against us Filipino nurses. We are professional nurses and yet the agreement will make us mere trainees in Japan,” said Paquiz.

Reacting to the comment by Ambassador Siazon that the initial sending of nurses is just an initial experiment on the provision of the JPEPA on the movement of natural persons, Dr Paquiz said “the nurses are not guinea pigs you can send abroad to satisfy your curiosity.”

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376