27 April 2008

EcoWaste Coalition Bats for Clean Recycling to Ensure Workers’ Health and Safety

Quezon City. As the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work” is observed on 28 April, a waste and pollution watchdog renewed its plea for the protection of the informal sector against dirty recycling practices.

The EcoWaste Coalition through its Task Force on Waste Pickers drew attention to the unhygienic and dangerous working conditions of the informal sector, particularly those who forage dumps and bins for materials that can be reused or recycled.

While informal recycling provides much-needed livelihood to thousands of marginalized families, the job entails a lot of health and safety risks that are often overlooked by the society,” Anne Laracas of the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Laracas cited a study made by non-profit groups in Cambodia, India and the Philippines confirming that informal recycling, while providing a source of income and subsistence for the poor, is burdened with grave health and safety risks.

The problem with informal recycling is that, on the whole, recyclers have to rummage through mixed garbage that can contain potentially toxic and hazardous substances. In most cases, recyclers handle all types of wastes alike and do not take the necessary precaution against exposure and contamination from dangerous materials.

Because of the lack of enforcement of waste segregation at source and extended producer responsibility (EPR), we find the informal recyclers retrieving and reprocessing recyclables in the most unwholesome and polluting conditions,” Laracas said.

To address the concerns of the informal recyclers and avert a public health crisis, the EcoWaste Coalition seeks the implementation of policies and measures that will attach importance to the health and safety of informal recyclers and accord them with essential protection from toxic and hazardous garbage.

At the community level, the EcoWaste Coalition urges all households and other waste generators to sort their discards at source for safer handling and recycling, while local government units integrate informal recyclers into their ecological waste management boards and plans

At the national level, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes the adoption of a policy that will make manufacturers responsible for what they create throughout the whole product cycle. With EPR, manufacturers will be compelled to design better products that are safer for the people and the environment, more durable and more recyclable.

The annual “World Day for Safety and Health at Work” is coordinated by the International Labor Organization to promote safe, healthy, and decent work and to prevent accidents, diseases and deaths resulting from harmful work.

EcoWaste Coalition

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

26 April 2008

UN-Backed Project vs Cancer-Causing Chemicals Launched

Quezon City. The Philippines has taken a historic move that will address the serious health and environmental threats from the country’s stockpiles of obsolete industrial chemicals found mainly in old electrical transformers.

Representatives of the government, industry and public interest non-government organizations (NGOs) launched last Wednesday a novel initiative backed by the United Nations that will see the establishment of a non-combustion facility for destroying persistent organic pollutants (POPs) known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Leading the momentous launch held during the week-long Earth Day celebration were Dr. Mohamed Eisa of the Vienna-based United Nations Industrial Development Organization (the implementing agency for the project), Julian Amador of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (the national executing agency) and Stefan SaƱo of the Philippine National Oil Company – Alternative Fuels Corporation (the operating entity).

In his remarks, Dr. Eisa, who heads the UNIDO’s Stockholm Convention and Chemicals Management Unit lauded the country’s commitment to the project, which is part of an international program supported by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), that will demonstrate the feasibility of non-incineration technologies for destroying obsolete POPs stockpiles and wastes.

The project will run for 48 months beginning 2008 and will cost US$11,770,880, with GEF providing a grant of US$4,108,500. The local owners of the PCBs-containing equipment and wastes, particularly the Manila Electric Company, National Power Corporation and the National Transmission Corporation, will pay for the services estimated at US$2,512,380. The other project partners will contribute in cash and in kind as well.

"This initiative will hopefully help us safely deal with the toxic legacies associated with the past use of POPs in the country. The intention to use non-burn systems to dispose of these pollutants shows clearly that there are safer alternatives to waste incineration,” said Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and also Steering Committee member of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

“The solution to the problem of toxic and hazardous wastes, however, ultimately lies in the implementation of clean production in the industrial sector," added Hernandez, an internationally recognized environmental campaigner.

As explained by visiting Slovakian scientist Dr. Martin Murin, also of UNIDO, PCBs are extremely toxic industrial chemicals used primarily as heat exchange fluids in electrical transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper and plastics. In the
Philippines, partial inventories of PCBs indicate that they are mostly found in old electrical transformers and capacitors. As of 2006, the DENR-EMB has identified PCBs-contaminated equipment weighing 4,478,736 kilos and containing 2,400,560 kilos of PCBs oil.

Exposure to PCBs even at very low levels, Murin stressed, can cause a range of adverse impacts to human health, including damaging key systems in the body such as the immune, endocrine, nervous, digestive and reproductive systems. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have classified PCBs as probable human carcinogens or substances that can cause cancers such as cancers in the brain, skin, liver, gall bladder, biliary tract and gastrointestinal tract.

Mindful of these perils to public health and the environment, the Philippine government, the industry and the civil society, with the support of the United Nations, have come together to realize a collaborative venture that will rid the country of these highly toxic chemical wastes.

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

22 April 2008

100 Green Tips to Cool Planet

MANILA, Philippines- In observance of Earth Day on Tuesday, the environmental group Ecowaste Coalition issued 100 "green tips" on how earthlings could help cool the planet and address the problem of climate change.

Using a "bayong" (woven buri bag) when shopping or cutting short your shower time may be your share in protecting Mother Earth, the group said.

The group's practical suggestions included tips on saving energy, conserving water, traveling wisely, and shopping smartly.

"These tips are potent strategies for preventing greenhouse gas emissions that every individual and household can emulate," said Manny Calonzo, Ecowaste Coalition president.

Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere necessary to maintain the earth's temperature. Like the glass roof of a greenhouse, they trap solar heat. Excessive greenhouse gases can raise a planet's temperature to deadly levels.

Here are some of the group's tips:

* Set your refrigerator temperature at 5 degrees Celsius. Leave sufficient room around the top and back to let the heat escape.

* Unplug your computer, television, stereo, microwave, cell phone charger and other electronic appliances and gadgets instead of just turning them off.

* Avoid air purifiers and fresheners as well as insect repellents that plug into electric outlets.

* Use the 'padyak'

* Choose a dual-flush toilet, allowing users to select a big or minimum flush as needed.

* Shorten your shower time, turn off the tap when soaping and don't use more water than you need.

* Walk, cycle or use public transportation such as the "padyak" (pedicab), mass railway transit, river ferry, and non-belching tricycles, jeepneys and buses.

* Organize a car pool.

* Avoid aggressive driving as rapid acceleration and braking can decrease gas mileage.

* Fresh foods better

* Buy fresh instead of processed foods, which require more energy to produce, starting from extraction, manufacturing, transport, advertising and marketing.

* Don't use straws for drinks and shakes.

* Use your mobile phone or your personal digital assistant (PDA) to read e-books. Conventional deadtree books need to be bleached by chemicals and shipped from across the globe.

* Read your daily dose of news on the Web.

Echoing the findings of a United Nations panel, Calonzo said from 1.1 to 3.2 billion people would experience water scarcity while 200 to 600 million would go hungry due to climate change.

An erratic weather pattern in the Philippines could translate into more humid and scorching summers, elevated sea levels and food shortages as droughts and floods ravage agricultural lands, Calonzo said.

He said that by living simply and following the "green tips," one could help decrease the demand for fossil fuels and curb the depletion of trees and, along the way, reduce the production of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

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

10 April 2008

Citizens’ Coalition Vows to Escalate Action against JPEPA

Quezon City- Two weeks before the scheduled release of the committee report on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), members of the church, the academe, and more than 25 civil society organizations gathered at the University of the Philippines-Diliman to discuss their plans towards an escalation of actions against the JPEPA.

The groups present are members and supporters of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC), a broad coalition that has, for two years, vigorously exposed the lopsided and unconstitutional features of the treaty and campaigned against its ratification by the Senate at the public hearings and various protest assemblies.

“We continue to closely monitor each and every Senator’s move on the JPEPA. Giving away of Philippine land, allowing discriminatory treatment for Filipino nurses, formalizing trade and dumping of toxic waste, and opening up our seas to foreigners, these are very serious violations of law. A senator who says yes to these provisions must be held accountable, together with the Chief Executive of this country who consistently bargains away the freedom, resources, and sovereignty of this country,” expressed Golda Benjamin, lead counsel of the Coalition.

JPEPA opponents also raised their concern as regards some senators’ proposal for a conditional concurrence on the treaty.

“Some senators are supposedly working to “fix” the problems in the JPEPA. However, members of the negotiating team keep on saying that this is an all-or-nothing deal that cannot be renegotiated. If the Executive Branch is doing nothing to fix the JPEPA, why are the Senators now trying to clean up the mess of the Executive Branch when their power is simply to approve or reject the treaty?” asked Marie Marciano of the EcoWaste Coalition, a member group of the MJJC.

The participants, mostly coming from sectors that will be adversely impacted by JPEPA, signed an open letter to the Senators warning them that ratifying JPEPA in the midst of major corruption scandals will not go unnoticed.

“With the NBN-ZTE now in the public mind, with the concession of the Spratlys nipping at its heel, the ratification of the JPEPA will be a greater bitter poison for the public to stomach. The ramifications are even graver with JPEPA since it is more than just a business deal. The treaty if ratified becomes a law of the land. If the Senate does ratify it, the question becomes who are watching the watchers?” their letter to the Senators said.

“The Arroyo administration is marked with a litany of anomalous agreements entered into at great cost and detriment to the Filipino people. The year 2010 is not far away. We, the Filipino people will remember and distinguish the traitors from the patriotic,” they stated.

The MJJC has revealed its plan to strengthen their campaign and to continue its information drives all over the country. The Coalition is also prepared to support legal actions before the Supreme Court to question the constitutionality of the JPEPA.

Among the many MJJC partner groups are the Alliance of Progressive Labor, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines - Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, EcoWaste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy, Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya, Kilusang Mangingisda, Philippine Nurses Association and the Task Force Food Sovereignty.

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

08 April 2008

Groups Condemn President's Veto of Debt Service cut

A group of civil society organizations condemned today the president's veto of the provision in the General Appropriations Act which put on hold the paying of interest for questionable loans, including that which bankrolled the substandard Austrian medical waste incinerators installed in twenty-six hospitals run by the Department of Health (DOH).

In a forum held at the Philippine Heart Center today, Health Care Without Harm, Freedom from Debt Coalition, and the Eco Waste Coalition, members of the broad network called People Against Illegitimate Debt (PAID) pointed out that in the national budget passed by Congress, the payments for interests of what they termed as illegitimate debts were realigned instead to finance social services, thereby augmenting the budget of the DOH by P 6.812 billion for a total of 18.9 billion.

With the president's veto of the suspension of debt interest payments, the civil society groups however were concerned that the augmented expenditures for health approved by Congress may not materialize.

According to Director Maylene Beltran of the Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau, the DOH originally requested only 14.9 billion, but Congress passed a 66 % increase in the DOH's budget for this year. Among others, the budget for the reduction of malaria, leprosy, TB and HIV-AIDS was increased by 327%, the budget for environmental health by 2, 918% and the budget for the upgrade of health services by 27 %.

The extra funds the DOH got in the national budget was sourced from the suspension of debt interest payments for questionable loans. Director Beltran said that the partnership between the the DOH and civil society groups in working on health issues has greatly helped to push for an augmented budget for health services in 2008.

"There is a great need for us to concentrate our efforts in reaching the targets set by the Millenium Development Goals. Our maternal mortality rate, for instance, is still very high at 162 deaths per 100,000 live births," said director Beltran.

Director Beltran also noted that historically only about 75% of the approved budget for the DOH is ultimately released by the Department of Budget and Management.

The president's veto, according to the groups, honors illegitimate debts that were not only useless but had actually financed projects that were harmful to the people.

According to Ronnel Lim, program officer of Health Care Without Harm, one such illegitimate debt is the Austrian loan that installed medical waste incinerators which were later found out by the DOH to be emitting extremely high levels of dioxins, which were up to more than 800 times the acceptable level.

"For the harmful and useless incinerators, we now have to pay roughly 2 million dollars in principal amortization and interest payments until 2014," added Lim.

Emmanuel Hizon of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) said that the debt service suspension made by Congress should be a reminder to everyone that the illegitimate debt problem goes beyond the recent headlines generated by the scrapped ZTE Broadband project.

"We all need to take a much closer look into all these anomalous loans incurred in the past in name of the Filipino people," said Hizon.

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

06 April 2008

Green Group Urges Farmers Not to Burn Rice Straws

Quezon City. As the country’s paddy fields turn gold in time for the harvest season, a waste and pollution watchdog appealed to farmers not to burn dayami (rice straws) from the estimated seven million metric tons of palay to be harvested this summer.

The EcoWaste Coalition pleaded for the ecological management of rice straws and other crop residues as government officials search for real solutions to the unfolding rice crisis and the warming of the climate.

The open burning of rice straws after harvesting, laments the eco-group, persists despite the “Unified Campaign on Composting and Prevention of Rice Straw Burning” that the Department of Agriculture launched in 2006 as part of its “Agri-Kalikasan” program.

Rice fields on fire are pollution hotspots that can release huge amounts of toxic environmental contaminants, which can considerably increase air pollution levels and adversely affect the public health and the climate,” said Roy Alvarez, film actor and Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as dioxins and furans, are formed and released into the environment when agricultural wastes are burned. These toxic byproducts are potent carcinogens or cancer-causing substances. A report by the Department of Science and Technology shows that the open burning of agricultural wastes is the number one source of dioxin and furan pollution in the country.

Smoke plumes from burning farm wastes contain many other contaminants, including fine dust particles such as PM10 or particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter. Exposure to the acrid smoke can induce or aggravate coughing, allergic rhinitis, asthma and other respiratory as well as cardiovascular diseases.

“If the straws from the palay to be harvested are burned and reduced to smoke, soot and ash, we are not only polluting the environment but also wasting valuable resources that can certainly help us in improving soil fertility, farmers’ income and community health. Rice straws can be composted to produce organic fertilizer for our farms,” Alvarez said.

Organic farmer Bernie Aragoza, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s newly-formed Task Force on Natural Farming, says that “mainstreaming ecological alternatives to the open burning of rice straws such as turning them into organic compost fertilizer will dramatically reduce farmers’ dependence on expensive chemical fertilizer costing P800 to P1,000 per bag.”

Aside from composting, rice straws can be used as fodder for livestock, as substrates for cultivating mushrooms or as raw material for special papers.

To encourage more farmers to abandon the outmoded practice of burning dayami, the EcoWaste Coalition urges the Department of Agriculture to intensify its public information campaign in partnership with the mass media, the local government units, the church and the civil society.

The eco-group also cited the recent adoption of Provincial Ordinance No. 07-05 by the Government of Leyte that bans the burning of rice straws and other agricultural wastes and penalizes violators.

“As more Filipinos embrace organic farming in lieu of destructive chemical-dependent agriculture, we remain hopeful that our country will get through the rice crisis while we enhance the health of our fragile ecosystems and cool the planet,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

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

Tourism Industry Urged to Respond to the Waste and Climate Crisis

Quezon City. With the anticipated increase in the number of local and foreign tourists visiting hotels and resorts during the summer break, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the tourism industry to take up the cudgels for Mother Earth.

The waste and climate advocacy group made this call after only two of the country’s many hotels and resorts made it to the list of “green” facilities recognized by the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These were the El Nido Resorts in Palawan and Shangri-La Island Resort in Mactan, Cebu.

“The fact that the Philippines only got two of the 81 ASEAN Green Hotel Recognition Awards should serve as a wake up call for the tourism industry to institute urgent environment-friendly reforms, especially those that will curtail waste, energy inefficiency and pollution in the daily operations of hotels and resorts,” said Sonia Mendoza of the Mother Earth Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is now the turn of the entire tourism industry to extend best quality treatment to Mother Nature now that we know how ill she is with the unfolding climate change,” added Mendoza.

The 11-point ASEAN Green Hotel Standards covers policies and practices that promote sustainable tourism, including efforts to minimize the tourism industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that the memorandum circular issued in 2005 by Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano promulgating a “Zero Tourism Waste” policy should be relentlessly pursued as this will help in “greening” the tourism industry.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) in 2005 embraced the said policy “to provide for a clear direction, guidance and inspiration for the tourism sector’s involvement in the ongoing national efforts to prevent, reduce, reclaim and recycle discards for the conservation of resources and the
protection of public health and the environment.”

It was adopted after the DOT, together with the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Greenpeace International, held a forum on tourism waste in November 2004 with Zero Waste pioneer Jayakumar Chelaton from India.

Consistent with the DOT’s commitment to sustainable tourism and development, Secretary Durano instructed the Department and its attached agencies to get educated and trained on ecological solid waste management (ESWM) and to implement programs and systems that will prevent and reduce waste.

The concerned tourism offices were also directed to update all policies and manuals for operations to make them consistent with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, with Executive Order 301 on green procurement and with other environmental laws and policies.

The memorandum circular also pointed to the need for pilot projects that will demonstrate the beauty and viability of ESWM in tourism establishments and facilities, including the “greening” of tourist attractions and festivals.

“We have had several collaborative undertakings on ESWM with the DOT and PTA. What we find lacking is a full-pledged program, with Secretary Durano himself at the helm, that will ensure the progressive implementation of the Zero Tourism Waste policy in the DOT and its attached agencies and the much wider tourism sector,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

To get started with the “greening” challenge, the EcoWaste Coalition came up with a “clean dozen” or 12 steps that hotels and resorts can do to help cut climate change, especially on the energy, water and waste fronts.

1. Use skylight in the hotel entrance, lobby and restaurant for as much of the day as possible. Light up intelligently with energy efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

2. Reduce electricity consumption with the use of motion detector light switches. Adopt the use of key card to activate power in the room.

3. Provide guests with cards or decals where they can find useful energy conservation tips.

4. Implement a towel and sheet reuse program in all guest rooms. Train the housekeeping department on proper implementation.

5. Fix all leaky faucets, sinks, toilets, showers and tubs.

6. Fit low-flow restrictors in showers and sinks, install dual flush toilets or place fill diverters in toilet tanks.

7. Harvest rain water and utilize it to meet your water requirements.

8. Water the plants with grey water, water before the sun is intense and apply mulch to keep the soil from drying fast.

9. Enforce a Zero Waste policy to ensure proactive prevention and reduction of residual waste and the maximum reuse and recycling of discarded resources. Implement the non-use of plastic liners on room trash bins.

10. Put up Ecology Centers or Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) to facilitate the sorting, reuse and recycling of discards.

11. Convert biodegradable discards from the kitchen and the yard into compost that can be used as organic fertilizer for the facility’s herb, vegetable or fruit farm. Partner with the nearest barangay or farmers’ cooperative for the collection of food waste.

12. Don’t burn or dump garden waste; use fallen leaves and twigs as compost or mulch; recycle grass clippings by leaving them on the lawn to decompose.

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

02 April 2008

EcoWaste Coalition Issues Water "Tipid" Tips

Quezon City. As the weather turns hotter and the public consumption of water climbs up, the environmental advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition has come up with some handy suggestions to guide Filipino consumers on how to save water during the summertime and all year-round.

The green group issued a 15-point “Water Tipid Tips” as part of its ongoing advocacy for ecological lifestyle reforms to arrest the further destruction of our natural resources and ease the waste and climate crisis.

“We really need to bring back the low-tech practices of our Lolas (grandmothers) like catching rainwater through the alulod (gutter), which has been practiced since ages, to conserve our precious water resources,” stressed Luz Sabas, a veteran recycling guru.

“For instance, when taking a bath, the water used for final rinsing can be reused for soaking clothes before these are washed with soap. The soapy water can still be reused for flushing the toilet and for other household purposes,” added Neneng Joson of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The “Water Tipid Tips” were culled from the text messages received from Ms. Philippines Earth 2007 Jeanne Harn, zero waste advocate Luz Sabas, gay rights activist Danton Remoto, and ecologists from the Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines - National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA), Concerned Citizens against Pollution (COCAP), Environmental Advocates Reaching Towards Humanity - University of Santo Tomas (EARTH UST), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Krusada sa Kalikasan, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation (MEF), November 17 Movement and Sining Yapak.


1. Get hold of a wrench and fix all dripping faucets, pipes, water containers and toilet tanks. Replace worn out sapatilya (washers) without delay.

2. Use a glass of water when brushing your teeth. Don‘t let the water run while you brush your teeth, shave, or wash your face and hands.

3. Use timba (pail) and tabo (dip) when taking a bath, keep it short, and use just enough water.

4. Fill up a half-gallon container, seal and put inside the toilet tank to cut on water use in every flush.

5. Collect water dripping from air conditioners; use it to wash your mop or water the plants.

6. Organize your laundry schedule and wait until you have a full load before you use the washing machine.

7. Use laundry water for cleaning used bottles, cans and other recyclables, blinds, rugs, doormats, and car wheels.

8. Keep a bucket in the bathroom and laundry area for the grey water. Use this water to flush your toilet, clean the laundry area and car port or to dampen dusty road.

9. Do not hose down your driveway or footpath. Use the walis tingting (broomstick) to sweep the place clean.

10. Wash fruits and vegetables in a palanggana (pan) instead of running water from the tap; reuse the water for watering the plants.

11. Do not throw rice wash down the drain; use it for washing dishes or watering plants.

12. Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator overnight, not on running water.

13 . Use fewer cooking and dining utensils and dishes to cut down on the water needed for dishwashing.

14. Never waste water served during meals; drink it up!

15. Harvest rainwater through the alulod (gutter) and use the water collected for your essential needs.

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