30 August 2007

TOXIC DUMPING, STILL POSSIBLE UNDER JPEPA

QUEZON CITY, Philippines. Public health and environmental groups from the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition held a sectoral briefing today to elaborate on the current issues surrounding toxic and radioactive wastes under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). The groups were wary of the media blitz orchestrated by proponents of the JPEPA selling the recent exchange of diplomatic notes between Japan and the Philippines as enough to cure any defects that the JPEPA may have on the issue of toxic wastes. The groups also cautioned the public against jumping to hasty conclusions based on incomplete information.

According to Basel Action Network (BAN), EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Health Care Without Harm, the exchange of diplomatic notes between the two countries last May 22 and 23, 2007, wherein Japan promises not to export toxic wastes to the Philippines as defined by Philippine and Japanese law and in accordance with the Basel Convention, is a palliative that is insufficient in scope and a non-answer to the continuing concern over toxic and radioactive wastes and materials dumping.

"The exchange of diplomatic notes is simply a reiteration of the status quo gift wrapped in a new package. The Philippines is still open to the dangerous wastes from Japan in the guise of 'recyclable materials'," said Atty. Richard Gutierrez of the BAN, Asia-Pacific.

"The Basel Convention, by itself, does NOT prohibit toxic wastes exports. If Japan were truly sincere, why doesn't it simply ratify the Basel Ban Amendment and put regal weight on its commitment?"

At the briefing, two volunteers dressed in hazardous materials suits presented a gold treasure chest marked JPEPA to the members of the media. Upon opening the treasure chest, smoke oozed out and a pile of e-waste and other garbage, representing toxic waste, was found inside. Signs promptly indicating that the contents were toxic popped out of the lid. Presenters at the briefing used the tableaux to highlight Japanese deception in the issuance of the notes.

The sectoral briefing further questioned the binding power or enforceability of the exchange of notes on Japan. The group urged the Senate to request for a clarification of the provisions and scope of the exchange of notes in order to address its relationship with the JPEPA and to address vague areas in the notes, such as the interpretation of what constitutes toxic wastes, which seem to depend on the definitions of an unidentified Japanese law.

Gutierrez cited data of toxic waste dumping from companies in Japan to the Philippines, China, Thailand, and India. He also highlighted the cases of toxic waste dumping within Japan that continues unabated, putting to question Japan's ability to deal with its own toxic wastes within its borders and Japan's lethal policy of allowing toxic laden end-of-life vessels to end up in poorer countries.

"There is a strong history of Japanese toxic waste dumping in Asia, in spite of their laws, the Basel Convention, and the laws of the country they dumped on," said Gutierrez.

"The Philippine government should make it more difficult for Japan to exports its toxic wastes, and ratify the Basel Ban Amendment immediately and join the ranks of China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei here in Southeast Asia."

Other pressing concerns were also raised, particularly the radioactive wastes and materials favored under JPEPA. "The government seems to have forgotten the matter of radioactive wastes and materials being preferentially treated under JPEPA," cautions Ms. Beau Baconguis of Greenpeace-SEA.

"The same market incentives driving toxic wastes will also apply to the radioactive wastes and materials peddled by the JPEPA. The threat to Filipino public health and environment posed by Japanese radioactive wastes is equally as grave as that posed by toxic wastes, and is NOT addressed at all in the exchange of notes."

The Basel Convention covers the export of toxic wastes, but specifically excludes radioactive wastes and materials from its scope. The civil society groups are also wary of the implications the lowered tariff on radioactive materials could bring, especially with renewed talks on the use of nuclear energy re-surfacing in the archipelago. Without any national mandate obtained through a transparent and democratic process, no incentive should accrue to the nuclear energy sector by reason of any agreement, directly or indirectly, noted the environmental groups.

"Before it was toxic wastes, now its radioactive wastes. What's next? How much patchwork will it take for the government to admit that there are a lot of very serious holes in the JPEPA?" asks Mr. Manny Calonzo of the GAIA.

"It's high time that we should stop this mad dash for the cliff. The upcoming hearings in the Senate should not only expose all the flaws of the JPEPA, but also allow the Philippine government to reflect and act on what the Filipino's interests really are, not Japan's."


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

20 August 2007

Eco-Group Urges Polluting Restaurants to Clean Up

QUEZON CITY, Philippines. A citizens’ network on waste and pollution issues today asked the non-compliant branches of popular money-spinning restaurants to stop killing the Laguna de Bay by halting pollutive water discharges that find their way into the country’s largest brackish water lake.

Following the disclosure of this year’s “Mga Pasaway sa Lawa” (pig-headed of the lake) awardees by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), the EcoWaste Coalition insisted that the embarrassed fast food chains and eateries should rectify their environmental lapses without delay.

“They owe it to their loyal customers in the Laguna Lake region to clean up their act. Otherwise, the public should avoid these establishments for their deliberate inaction that is killing the lake and endangering the lives of over 10 million Filipinos, especially those who rely on it for food and livelihood,” said Ben Galindo, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.

Raquel Naciongayo of the LLDA Public Disclosure Program last Friday said that “unless these companies change their ways, the public should just boycott them." The “shame campaign” cited 104 worst environmental offenders that throw out untreated wastewater into the lake or
watercourses linked to the Laguna de Bay.

“We expect the LLDA, Environment Department and other government offices to take the lead in refusing to patronize these polluting restaurants until they have met the requirements of the Clean Water Act of 2004 and other regulations that seek to curb water pollution,” stated Galindo.

Among those cited were 10 branches of popular food outlets, namely Jollibee (Pasig-Simbahan, Market Avenue-Pasig, San Andres-Malate and Siniloan), Chowking (San Andres-Del Pilar, Malate and East Avenue-Diliman), McDonald’s (Fairview), KFC (Acropolis-Libis), Max’s
(Quezon Avenue) and Gerry’s Grill (Libis).

The EcoWaste Coalition further urged the LLDA to also chase erring local government units (LGUs) that contaminate the Laguna de Bay by operating or condoning the illegal operation of polluting waste facilities such as dumps, which pollute the surface and groundwater with toxic garbage juice called leachate.

Data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission shows that the Laguna Lake region, which includes Metro Manila and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon, continues to have some 111 open and controlled dumps despite their prohibition under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“In last year’s “Pasaway sa Lawa,” Dr. Casimiro Ynares III, then LLDA general manager, announced that polluting LGUs would be the campaign targets for this year. We ask the LLDA to deliver on its promise, cite the LGU violators, and compel them to close, clean up and rehabilitate the dumps to stop further pollution of the lake from leachate and from the
indiscriminate disposal of garbage into the lake,” stressed Galindo


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

17 August 2007

Letter: Concealed casualty of War

The EcoWaste Coalition is deeply concerned with the escalating conflict in Basilan and Sulu and with its adverse social and psychological impact on local communities. Likewise, we are acutely concerned about the conflict's concealed casualty: the environment.

From various media accounts, we have come to know the painful social impact of the heightened armed offensive: dozens of soldiers and rebels killed, hundreds of residents displaced, community life disrupted. Behind the statistics are the often-ignored psychological effects of the violence on combatants and their families as well as on community members, most especially the children, caught in the crossfire.

We also see the environment being battered and damaged in the carnage. Bullets, grenades, bombs, mortars and other war tools obliterate wildlife, disturb native habitats and poison the air, water and soil with toxic chemicals. This damage to the environment is very costly and can persist for generations.

We deplore all forms of violence that only divide and impoverish our nation, harm our communities and the environment, and divert essential human and financial resources from constructive and beneficial purposes -- such as building classrooms, producing instructional materials and increasing teachers' salaries, promoting primary health care, advancing
zero-waste resource management and creating sustainable jobs and livelihood.

For the sake of the people and the environment, we call upon the government to stop the offensive. We support the call, made by faith and peace groups, for the cessation of violence in southern Philippines, and we appeal to the warring parties to opt for diplomacy and negotiation, and to shun violence as a means of addressing disputes.


EILEEN SISON
Chair
EcoWaste Coalition,
Unit 320, Eagle Court, 26 Matalino St., Quezon City
EcoWaste Coalition