27 September 2007

Environment Experts Shoot Down JPEPA

Manila, Philippines. Environment experts today continued to expose the unacceptable toxic waste trade provisions under the Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) as the Senate took a closer scrutiny at the treaty's health and environmental repercussions.

The groups, which include Basel Action Network, EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, working under the banner 'Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition,' revealed Japan's on-going illegal toxic shipments throughout Asia, and reiterated how JPEPA weakens Philippine measures to prevent Japanese toxic waste from ending up in our shores by creating strong economic incentives for their trade.

In time with the Senate inquiry, over 200 protesters gathered outside the Senate gates to depict their outrage over Japan's intent to send toxic wastes to the Philippines and to call on the Senate to reject the JPEPA. The protesters erected a mock pirate ship laden with wastes carried by the toxic tsunami wave coming from Japan. Above the mock pirate vessel a banner was unfurled exclaiming 'Ahoy, Pinoys! JPEPA: Toxic to Health and Environment.'

"Japan has a record of shipping all sorts of hazardous waste to different countries in Asia. The toxic wastes Japan has been exporting are the same toxic wastes Japan insists on getting zero tariffs under JPEPA," said Atty. Richard Gutierrez of the Basel Action Network, Asia-Pacific (BAN AP), one of the environmental groups invited before the Senate. "The export data from Asia proves our point that Japan's promise not to export toxic wastes is empty, and that its real intent is to use the Japanese Economic Partnership Agreements to facilitate toxic waste colonization of the Philippines and Asia."

Atty. Gutierrez cited data from Thailand, India, China, and Hong Kong showed large amounts of toxic and other wastes were moving out of Japan and exported to these places, legally and illegally. In India, for instance, Japan exported a total of 70 end-of-life vessels---containing many cancer-causing pollutants---for disposal from the years 2003 to 2006. In 2006, Japan dumped 195 million kilograms of toxic incinerator ash to Thailand, and illegally shipped 4,000 tons of Japanese contaminated municipal waste to China. China and Hong Kong customs officials were also recently able to intercept large quantities of Japanese toxic wastes, such as contaminated municipal wastes and electronic wastes or e-waste, even though they were misdeclared as mixed scrap or plastic wastes.

According to Greenpeace, the country's current regulations against the entry of such toxic shipments are hopelessly inadequate. Toxic waste can still be shipped to our shores if they are declared recyclable, an excuse that hazardous waste traders fully exploit. Neither Japan nor the Philippines have ratified the Basel Ban Amendment, an international treaty which protects developing countries from toxic waste dumping by developed nations under the guise of recycling. Additionally, JPEPA supports radioactive waste trade which is not covered under the Basel Convention.

"Recycling hazardous waste produces equally hazardous waste residues, and Filipino workers and communities end up bearing the costs. JPEPA--which legalizes and eliminates tariffs on shipments of poisonous trash, and even dangerous radioactive waste--fully supports this atrocious practice to the detriment of the health and well-being of Filipinos. There is no sound economic reason, no plausible or credible explanation, why the entry of poisonous and radioactive waste into our shores should be something that our country should welcome," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaigns Director Von Hernandez.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition raised the lack of capacity of the Philippines to deal with its own domestic waste. Citing the dismal failure of the National Solid Waste Management Commission to shut down the 677 open dumps and 343 controlled dumps that should all have been closed and rehabilitated as required by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, the Philippines is in no shape to take in foreign wastes.

"Hope is not a strategy. Hoping that Japan will not dump toxic waste on us will not stop them from doing so," said Marie Marciano of the EcoWaste Coalition, adding that "The Philippines needs to take concrete steps to protect itself--reject the JPEPA in its present form, and close the loopholes in its waste laws by enacting a total prohibition against toxic waste imports by immediately ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment."

For more information: http://junkjpepa.blogspot.com.


Note:
1. Additionally, a recent report prepared by BAN, EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives has raised the alert about the potential influx of CRT-based TV sets from Japan when TV systems in Japan are fully converted into HDTV digital systems in 2011. An estimated 64 million TVs with lead and other hazardous components are to become obsolete and likely to find their way to the Philippines and other countries under the guise of recyclable wastes or used goods should JPEPA be ratified.

2. The Basel Ban Amendment prohibits the export of all toxic wastes, for any reason whatsoever, either for disposal or recycling, from rich or developed countries like Japan, to poorer countries. The amendment was proposed back in 1995 in order to address the recycling loophole that has plagued the Basel Convention ever since its adoption in 1989. The Basel Ban Amendment has been ratified by almost all developed nations and is awaiting the requisite number of ratifications for it to enter into force of international law. The Philippines and Japan have not yet ratified the Amendment.

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

10 September 2007

Civil Society Groups Train Their Eyes on the Senate

Pasay City, Philippines. Marking the anniversary of the signing of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), civil society groups from the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC) converged today at the Philippine Senate to signify the people’s intention to keep a close eye on the hearings.

Laborers, nurses, environmental advocates and other concerned citizens carrying 13 giant papier mache eyeballs and a huge banner reading “The people are watching... Magkaisa, Junk JPEPA!” lined up at the Senate People’s Park to appeal to the Senators not to ratify the mega treaty.

The organizers explained that the eyeballs represent the yearning of the Filipino people for a robust, honest and transparent debate on multiple issues that continue to hound the controversial treaty signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Helsinki, Finland on 9 September 2006. Japan’s Diet ratified the
agreement last 6 December 2006; it is currently awaiting ratification in the Philippine Senate.

The Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition reiterated the civil society’s call to reject the treaty. “The more we study the full text of the JPEPA, the more we become convinced that the Senators should cross party lines and reject it out of hand,” said Atty. Golda Benjamin, lead counsel for the MJJC.

“We have faith in this Senate’s ability to transcend political differences and act as one to defend the interests of the Filipino people,” Benjamin added.

Foremost amongst the issues being leveled against the treaty is the lack of transparency during the negotiation process. Critics from the civil society as well as lawmakers from both houses of the Congress have slammed JPEPA for the secrecy shrouding its inception.

In 2005, civil society groups and members of the House of Representatives were forced to file a case in the Supreme Court for the JPEPA negotiators to disclose the full text of the agreement. In 2007, detained mutineer Captain Nicanor Faeldon filed graft charges before the Office of the
Ombudsman against government negotiators after finding JPEPA to be “grossly disadvantageous” to the Filipino people.

“A treaty should be negotiated with as much public participation as possible,” Atty. Benjamin stated. “The mystery surrounding the negotiation process puts the whole affair in a bad light. If the JPEPA is really all that they say it is, then the government shouldn’t be afraid of public
scrutiny. The whole process begs the question, ‘What are they hiding?’”

For more information, please contact Atty. Golda Benjamin (0917-3141016),
Marnie Dolera (0928-2113822) or log to:

http://junkjpepa.blogspot.com/


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

02 September 2007

Groups Oppose Toxic Debt Payment

Quezon City, Philippines. As the 14th Congress gears up for the 2008 budget hearings, concerned groups restate their objection over the use of scarce public funds to pay for defunct waste incinerators in government-run hospitals.

Members of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) assembled in front of the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) to call attention to the money the country throws away to pay for defunct medical waste burners in 26 hospitals under the Department of Health.

Volunteers clad in protective suits unfurled a “Stop Toxic Debt” banner, while others held placards asking the authorities to stop payment for what they viewed as a highly “illegitimate loan” that the government secured in 1997 to purchase the Austrian-supplied incinerators.

Is it not gut-wrenching to be paying for these toxic incinerators when we know that the Department of Health is short of funds for non-burn treatment technologies for decontaminating infectious or pathological waste that will not endanger hospital staff and host community with dioxin and other harmful emissions?” asked Manny Calonzo, Secretary, EcoWaste Coalition. “We believe that the government of Austria will understand if the Philippines will negotiate for the cancellation of the incinerator loan, so we can shift the appropriated funds for measures that will protect the public health,” Calonzo said.

“In the immediate, we call on our legislators to strike out the $2 million from the proposed 2008 budget earmarked for the payment of the said incinerators pending an independent and thorough investigation. The said money should instead be used to augment the minuscule health budget,” said Milo Tanchuling, Secretary General, FDC.

“A meticulous and comprehensive inquiry is needed not only to unravel the web of controversies surrounding the contract, but also to hold accountable those involved and more importantly to rescind this illegitimate loan,” Tanchuling stated.

On 30 July 2007, the EcoWaste Coalition, FDC, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and Greenpeace Southeast Asia launched the “Stop Toxic Debt” campaign targeting the cancellation of payment for the dirty technology transfer.

Signed by the Department of Finance and the Bank of Austria, the total loan package originally amounts to over P503 million. With 4% percent interest per annum, the loan has to be settled in 24 semi-annual payments until 2014. The government has started paying for the loan since 2002. For 2007, a total of US$1,993,640 or about P92 million has been put aside to pay for this “toxic debt.”

Actual inspection by Greenpeace Southeast Asia revealed that the 26 incinerators “dumped” in the recipient hospitals, including the EAMC, were obsolete and exceedingly polluting despite being marketed by the technology vendor as “the most efficient, safest and comparatively cheapest.”

A follow-up investigation by the EcoWaste Coalition showed that the incinerators have been decommissioned in 2003 in compliance with the scheduled phase out under the Clean Air Act of 1999 of medical waste burners that emit toxic and poisonous fumes. After the three-year grace period, the law requires the use “state of the art, environmentally-sound and safe non-burn technologies” to process or treat infectious or pathological waste.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the FDC reiterated their call to the Government of Austria to cancel the “toxic debt,” and for the Government of the Philippines to repudiate it in the name of public health.