27 June 2007

Landfill threatens Cebu's watershed

TALISAY CITY, Cebu- Residents and ecogroups are alarmed with the continuous operation of the city's "sanitary" landfill inside a watershed area and the risks it pose to the environment and health of the people of Cebu.


The Talisay City Sanitary Landfill is located in Barangay Tapul and managed by the local government unit. It has been operational since 2005 even without an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) or any environmental permit.


The multi-sectoral group EcoWaste Coalition and National Environmental Action Team of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP-NEAT) also hit the Talisay City government for violating the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or RA 9003 and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for its negligence to close down the illegal facility and halt the toxic contamination.


"The environment and health of the people should be the priority of our government. It is their mandate to ensure and uphold the rights of the people to safe drinking water, fertile land and clean air to breathe," said Atty. Gloria Ramos, deputy chair of Visayas IBP-NEAT.


The Talisay City Sanitary Landfill, with an estimated area of more than 2 hectares is adjacent to the Mananga Watershed and located inside the Central Cebu Protected Landscape, a recently-declared protected area that is comprised of the five major watersheds of the province.


The dump facility caters mix municipal waste of Talisay City and the nearby municipality of Minglanilla. The local government is also planning to accommodate solid waste from other nearby towns.


Residents of Tapul and nearby barangays complain of foul smells coming from the dump facility and trucks carrying the garbage. Some residents are forced to stop drinking the water collected from spring wells adjacent to the landfill, after the water has developed a bad taste and rusty color after months of the dump's operation.


"How come our city leaders allow this dirty facility and continuously put our health at risk? This sanitary landfill did not follow the law and aggravates the problem by contaminating our groundwater and aquifer,” laments Emman Larita, a resident of Talisay City.


According to the EcoWaste Coalition, landfills produce huge amounts of toxic leachate and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that has a 30% higher warming effect compared to carbon dioxide.


"Landfills are nothing but dumpsites under a different name. It is a toxic facility and supports the same corruption that breeds the collect-dump solid waste management system," said Rei Panaligan, coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.


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


In its decision in December 13, 2005, the high court's en banc nullified Proclamation 635 of former President Fidel Ramos to use a portion of 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.


“The government should stop building landfill projects and instead channel the funds to strengthen the implementation of ecological solid waste management in every barangay or village," said Panaligan.


For more information, please call Emman Larita at 0906-4196684, Rei Panaligan at 0927-3209271 or the EcoWaste Coalition at (02) 9290376.




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

26 June 2007

Green Gropus Support Breastfeeding

QUEZON CITY, Philippines- Environmentalist threw their support behind the shared effort of the government and the civil society to promote and protect breastmilk, the most healthy and ecologically sound food for babies.


Waste and pollution activists belonging to the EcoWaste Coalition conveyed their support for breastfeeding as the government clashed with the milk industry at the Supreme Court last week over the legality of the revised implementing rules and regulations that tighten the 20-year-old National Milk Code and expand the ban on the promotion of breastmilk substitutes for children up to two years of age.


“We, women and men who have been blessed to be breastfed by our mothers, add our voice to the raging battle to defend our culture of breast-feeding from being weakened by publicity gimmicks that only seek to create a larger market for infant formula and rake in profits for milk and advertising companies,” said Gigie Cruz-Sy, a lactating mother and member of the EcoWaste Coalition. The World Health Organization estimates that Filipinos spend some P21.5 billion a year to feed babies with commercial breast-milk substitutes.


Echoing the concern of public health experts, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed shock over the disturbing decline in breast-feeding in the Philippines. Data from the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey showed that only 16.1 percent of infants are solely breast-fed up to four to five months of age, down from 20 percent in 1998. The waning rate in breast-feeding has been linked to the death of some 16,000 children under five due to improper feeding practices.


In an e-mailed statement, the EcoWaste Coalition affirmed that breast milk offers the best nutritional start in life for children, providing babies with vital nutrients, sufficient water for hydration, and health-enhancing antibodies and enzymes to protect them against infection and allergy. Breast-feeding allows a healthy bonding between the baby and the mother and further helps in birth spacing.


Breast milk, emphasized the EcoWaste Coalition, is naturally produced and readily available to the infant consumer at the right temperature without creating waste and pollution that lead to climate change and a host of community health and environmental problems.


“As advocates for waste prevention and reduction, we can not help but be incensed by the ongoing attack against breastfeeding. We assert that breastfeeding is not only best for babies and their mothers, but also best in protecting the environment,” said Cruz-Sy. She further warned that “any attempt to undermine breast-feeding is a gross disservice to Mother Earth and humanity.”


In explaining the ecological benefits of breast-feeding, Cruz pointed out that unlike infant formula, breast milk is waste-free and requires neither paper, plastic and tin packaging nor feeding gear like plastic bottles and teats, the production of which consumes lots of raw materials and generates tons of wastes and toxics.


By breast-feeding, women forestall the further destruction of our ravaged environment, given that breast-feeding requires no forest to be cleared for pasture or to grow cattle feed, no trees to be felled for the labels and promotional gimmicks, no mountain to be mined to produce tin cans, and no fossil fuels to be burned to support the complex cycle of producing and transporting milk substitutes,” said Cruz-Sy.


Members of the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the government and the civil society to continue defending the right of each and every baby to full access to breast milk for the sake of child, maternal and environmental health.



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

12 June 2007

Green Group Calls for No Idling at Schools

QUEZON CITY, Philippines. Unknown to most parents, the unnecessary idling of vehicles that pick up children after school can endanger the health of kids as idling cars release harmful fumes that increases the risk of asthma and other adverse health effects among children.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, drew attention to the injurious practice of school vehicle drivers as well as parent or family drivers to idle when waiting for their student passengers or waiting for their turn to park.

“We need to eliminate needless idling by the school buses and jeepneys as well as family cars if we want to save our children from air toxics, or chemicals in the air that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects,” said Sonia Mendoza, chair of the Mother Earth Foundation, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Also known as hazardous air pollutants, air toxics such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter have been linked to reproductive problems, birth defects, respiratory ailments, heart conditions, and cancers. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that air toxics from motor vehicles account for half of all cancers due to air pollution.

“We urge the school authorities, the parent-teacher associations and the concerned groups in transportation sector to actively promote idle-free driving to improve the air quality and protect our children from harmful fumes,” added Mendoza, who has grandchildren going every weekday to schools.

Latest available data from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) website show that there are 5,331,574 registered motor vehicles in the country. Out of the 886,978 registered motor vehicles for hire, some 721 school jeepneys and 1,288 school buses are used to transport students with permits issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

The EcoWaste Coalition advises school bus, school jeepney and family car drivers to turn off the engine if they are going to park for more than 10 seconds. This will reduce the release of air toxics and minimize the combustion of fossil fuels, which is driving global climate change.

To support its call for idling-free driving as one solution against toxic pollution and climate change, the group cited information from Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency estimating that if every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada stopped idling for just five minutes a day‚ together Canadians would save 680 million liters of fuel per year, and also avoid more than 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from entering the atmosphere annually.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted that diesel-powered buses and jeepneys are known to spew out toxic air contaminants.

Referring to information from the US EPA, the group said that diesel fumes contain 40 toxic chemicals, including 15 carcinogens. EPA studies have linked diesel exhaust to the development of asthma and cancer in children.

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise cited efforts in Canada and the USA to protect the health and safety of children from harmful diesel bus emissions by enacting laws and ordinances calling for the reduction of the unnecessary idling of school buses in front of schools.

“Proactively preventing the idling of vehicles at schools is a good start to improve the air quality within the school vicinity. As a long-term measure, the authorities should also look into the unchecked idling of government cars, tourist buses, delivery trucks and other mobile sources of air pollution and launch an idle-free campaign for all vehicles nationwide,” concluded Mendoza.


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

04 June 2007

Senate Asked to Junk JPEPA

PASAY CITY- As Senators of the 13th Congress meet for their final session starting today, community and environmental activists gathered at the Senate gate to restate their opposition against the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in light of unsettled issues regarding the treaty's impacts on the country's agriculture, fishery, labor, economy and the environment.

Held on the eve of the World Environment Day, some 100 members of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition appealed to the Senators to heed the people's voice and remain vigilant in ensuring that the far-reaching implications of the treaty are fully disclosed, dissected and decided in favor of the country's requirements for a healthy environment and a sustainable development.

Atty. Tanya Lat of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition said: "The fact that the Philippine government specifically offered to accept Japan's waste and actually formalized this in the JPEPA puts into serious question its commitment to uphold the national interest and the right of all Filipinos to a balanced and healthy ecology under the Constitution. Before even considering the JPEPA, the government must ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, and plug the loopholes in our environmental laws and customs enforcement. Anything less than this would be utter irresponsibility."

To underscore their stance against the use of bilateral agreements to hasten trade in toxic waste, the groups presented to the Office of Senate President Manny Villar an oversized postcard that says "Philippines is not Japan's waste colony! Toxic waste trade will only worsen our garbage problem.Senators were given copies of the groups' statement calling on the Senate to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, junk JPEPA and address the broader concerns in the pact through robust and transparent hearings.

The civil society groups pointed out that the recent exchange of diplomatic notes between Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso is inadequate to dispel doubts that Japan will not send toxic waste into the country as defined and prohibited under the laws of the two countries and in keeping with the Basel Convention.

Environmental health and justice advocates reminded the Senators that while Japan and the Philippines are parties to the Basel Convention, neither has ratified the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed to poorer countries for all intents and purposes, including recycling and disposal. They stressed that the Senate must first ratify the Basel Ban Amendment as it provides a strong first line of defense for the Philippines and other developing countries, by shifting the onus of preventing the exports of toxic waste generators, such as Japan.

The groups welcomed the statement by Sen. Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate Environment Committee, stating that Japan and the Philippines need to do something that is "more definite and legally binding" than an exchange of diplomatic notes.

"Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment would provide greater protection to the Philippines from becoming a dumping ground for toxic wastes, not only from Japan, but also from other industrial countries," she said.

Grassroots leaders at the protest assembly demanded that community health and environmental interests must take precedence in any Senate decision on JPEPA. They made their conviction felt as they joined the roving picket under the searing sun.

Community leader Romy Hidalgo of the EcoWaste Coalition's Task Force Dumps/Landfills said, "JPEPA is a matter of serious concern for the communities who will suffer the brunt of toxic waste dumping. We're here to make it known that no community should be turned into a toxic sacrifice zone in the name of free trade." Hidalgo, from Navotas City, is campaigning for the closure of all dumps and their replacement with ecological alternatives.

Noli Abinales from San Mateo, Rizal told the crowd: "Coming from a town where Metro Manila used to dump its garbage, I know how unhealthy, unjust and inhuman it is to serve as burial site for unwanted wastes. Let us not allow a repeat of our tragic experience through legalized dumping of toxic waste via JPEPA."

For her part, Ochie Tolentino from Carmona, Cavite said, "We expect the Senate to assert its constitutional duty of scrutinizing the controversial treaty through open and transparent public hearings and to vote as one body in rejecting the flawed and lopsided agreement."

Stakeholders were not consulted until after the JPEPA was signed, with very little democratic space being given to ensure that stakeholder concerns were heard and considered. Also glaring is that no one has been held accountable for the reckless action in putting the toxic provisions in. For the benefit of future agreements, the groups believe that it is paramount that these mistakes not be made and for the Senate to re-assert itself as a counter-point to the executive branch of government.


For more information, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition at (02) 9290376, Romy Hidalgo at0917-9436221, Noli Abinales at 0918-6247525, Ochie Tolentino at 0918-4221769.


Notes:

1.The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is a global agreement for addressing the problems and challenges posed by hazardous waste. Its key objectives are: a) to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes in terms of quantity and hazardousness; b) to dispose of them as close to the source of generation as possible; and c) to reduce the movement of hazardous wastes. It entered into force in 1992. The Philippine Senate ratified it in 1993. (www.basel.int).

2. The Basel Ban Amendment of 1995 prohibits exports of hazardous wastes (for any purpose) from developed countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Union, Liechtenstein) to developing countries. The Basel Ban Amendment has to be ratified by three fourths of the Parties who accepted it in order to enter into force. The Philippines has ratified the Basel Convention, but not the Basel Ban Amendment. (www.basel.int)