01 October 2008

Solons seek cancellation of Austrian incinerator loan

Quezon City. Philippines- Reps. Edcel C. Lagman and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel have asked the Austrian government to cancel the loan that financed the 1996 Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Loan Project, branding it obsolete, illegitimate and unscrupulous and enjoining colleagues in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to sign the petition.

The petition is part of the Stop Toxic Debt Campaign of the Eco Waste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)- Southeast Asia .

The 1996 loan agreement worth P503.65 million involves the acquisition of 26 medical waste incinerators from Austria for use of government-run hospitals in the Philippines .

The petition will be presented to the Austrian parliament.

According to Lagman and Hontiveros-Baraquel, they will ask their colleagues in Congress to sign the petition as well as remind them of their previous decision to suspend interest payments for the said loan agreement in the 2008 Budget.

The 14th Congress passing the 2008 budget provided a special provision suspending interest payments amounting to P 5 billion for loans challenged as fraudulent, wasteful and/or useless. The Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Project was included in the list.

However, President Arroyo vetoed the provision. In the proposed P 1.41 trillion 2009 budget, payment for said project is reportedly pegged at $ 2.2 million or P100 million.

Manny Calonzo of Eco-Waste Coalition said that this is another case of a "1st world country waste thrown to a 3rd world like the Philippines" citing that the incinerators were of poor quality, having failed to pass the emission levels guaranteed by the supplier and the emission tests conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a 2003 emission test conducted by the WHO and the DOH, the dioxin emission of one incinerator tested was eight hundred times the limit set by the Philippine Clean Air Act.

He added that in contravention of European Union (EU) environmental standards, the incinerators exceeded the EU limits on emission. An EU-member country is supposed to accept, enforce and implement EU standards into its national law.

When Austria and RP entered the agreement, there is an EU Council Directive concerning the incineration of hazardous waste, which regulates among other pollutants, dioxins and furans.

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

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