26 February 2009

Watchdog Calls for Full Enforcement of Ban on Open Burning

Quezon City. Out of sight, out of mind. This has been the waste predicament facing our nation for the longest time, particularly when it comes to conveniently burning away the evidence of wasteful lifestyle. But is open burning the real solution to our mountainous garbage problem?

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, warns that burning our garbage gravely endangers the health of our nation and the planet by turning a solid waste problem into a complex problem involving toxic chemicals.

As the Fire Prevention Month is observed this March, the eco-group reminds the public to think not only of accidental fires but also fires that we intentionally set ourselves that destroy resources, damage ecosystems and disperse toxins.

The EcoWaste Coalition particularly urged the National Solid Waste Management Commission and the local authorities to enforce the ban on open burning under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“In our communities it is still customary for people to sweep their surroundings, gather the mix of organic and inorganic trash into a pile, and set fire to it despite the explicit ban on open burning,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Aside from the open burning of domestic waste, the EcoWaste Coalition scored the unchecked open burning that occurs in dumpsites and even in junkshops where used tires and cables are usually burned by informal recyclers to retrieve metal parts.

The EcoWaste Coalition also drew attention to biomass burning in the countryside, particularly rice straw or dayami burning and the slash-and-burn farming or kaingin, which causes massive pollution and ecological destruction.

“The truth of the matter is that burning garbage does much more harm than good,” Calonzo said.

“Done with absolutely no pollution control, open burning produces toxic fumes and ashes that contain extremely harmful health and environmental pollutants."

These toxic pollutants are linked to health problems including asthma and other respiratory illnesses, damage to the nervous system, kidney and liver, and reproductive and developmental disorders. Even the simple burning of seemingly harmless organic wastes such as leaves and other plant matter releases millions of spores into the air, which can be a big problem for people with allergies.

A particular concern for public health activists in the cocktail of chemicals released from open burning is dioxin, a persistent organic pollutant (POP) that has been described as the most toxic man-made substance known to science. The Department of Science and Technology has identified open burning as primary source of dioxin pollution in the country.

Dioxins are known to cause cancers and other serious disorders in the reproductive, developmental, neurological and immune systems. To protect the public health and the environment, its elimination has become a global priority under the Stockholm Convention on POPs, which our Senate ratified in 2004.

Last month, the Zero Waste Mercury Group, Ban Toxics and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives released a report implicating the burning of mercury-containing product wastes in dumps and incinerators as a major source of mercury pollution in the environment.

Mercury contaminates the waste stream in the form of discarded products containing the heavy metal such as batteries, compact-fluorescent lamps, electrical switches or relays, dental amalgam, thermometers, blood pressure devices and other medical products and chemicals.

As neither the incineration of discards nor the creation of more dumpsites will make waste disappears, the EcoWaste Coalition calls for the honest-to-goodness implementation of R.A. 9003, which focuses on waste prevention, minimization, segregation at source, recycling and composting.

Here are some creative reuse ideas for usual materials that people commonly set on fire:

GRASS CUTTINGS. Grasscyle by leaving grass clippings on the lawn where they will break down naturally and, in the process, feed the soil with valuable nutrients.

FALLEN LEAVES. Compost fallen leaves into organic soil amendment or chop the leaves and turn them into leaf mulch for your garden.

WOOD DISCARDS. Create alternative toys and even furnitures or fixtures out of discarded lumber or wood scraps.

PLASTIC BAGS. Cut clean used plastic carry bags into strips and weave them into functional bags.

BOTTLE AND TIN CONTAINERS. Reuse clean bottles and tin cans into flower vases, pen and pencil holders and containers for office and kitchen stuff.

NEWSPAPERS. Use old newspapers to cover books and wrap gifts. Shred or crumple newspapers as an alternative to plastic bubble wrap, or turn them into paper carry bags.

USED PAPER. Sew, glue or fasten used school or office paper into a drawing, memo or note pad.

CANDY WRAPPERS. Turn candy wrappers into colorful party lei. Keep the candy foil (palara) for school art projects or turn wrappers into children’s clutch or wallet.

JUICE PACKS. Make bags, purses, folders, trays and storage boxes from doy packs.

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

24 February 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Says NO to BNPP!

EcoWaste Coalition joins Bishop Soc Villegas and the hundreds of citizens of Bataan in denouncing the planned commissioning of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The mass protest which was led by the Diocese of Balanga was held last January 23, 2009 at Balanga City, Bataan.

Photos by Gigie Cruz.

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

19 February 2009

Voluntary Standards Not Enough to Protect Kids from Unhealthy Foods

Quezon City. A voluntary certification program is not enough to combat non-communicable diseases among children and ensure their right to safe and healthy food products.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for human and ecological health, aired this view following an announcement by the Department of Health of its plan to come up with a non-compulsory nutritional standards for fastfood staples such as hamburgers, fried chicken and French fries.

The DOH through the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control announced the said plan last Monday in a bid to sway fastfood restaurants into offering healthy menus.

“While we appreciate the intent, we find the proposed scheme inadequate to protect children from obesity and other chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” commented retired nurse Elsie Brandes-De Veyra of the Concerned Citizens Against Pollution and the EcoWaste Coalition.

“What we really need are more stringent steps – not voluntary measures - to halt the aggressive promotion of high calorie and nutrient-weak foods and beverages to helpless children,” De Veyra added. “We doubt if a voluntary scheme will be enough to push all food companies to stop marketing and selling unhealthy foods and drinks to children.”

For her part, Baby Reyes of the Mother Earth Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition stressed the strategic value of targeting educational institutions - not just fastfood chains - and making it obligatory for both private and public schools to comply with nutritional standards for foods served in their premises.

“Mandatory and not voluntary nutritional standards for foods sold in school cafeterias will have a tremendous positive effect in educating our kids to eat healthy, not junk foods,” Reyes said.

The EcoWaste Coalition echoed the recommendation by World Health Organization (WHO) experts who say that “the goal of any regulatory action should be to protect children from marketing which adversely affects their diets by substantially reducing the volume and impact of commercial promotion of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor food and beverages to children.”

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the DOH to support the ongoing effort of Consumers International (CI) and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) to produce a model code on the marketing of food and drink to children.

The consumer-led campaign is lobbying the WHO and the governments worldwide to adopt an “International Code on Marketing of Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children.”

Some of the steps being proposed by CI and the IOTF to regulate the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) to children include a ban on radio or TV advertising of HFSS foods, a ban on the marketing of HFSS foods on new media, a ban on the promotion of HFSS foods in schools, a ban on the advertising of HFSS foods targeting parents or carers, and a ban on the use of celebrities, cartoon characters, competitions or free gifts to endorse and market HFSS foods.

Data from IOTF indicate that one in 10 children worldwide – or a total of about 155 million - are overweight and that some 30 to 40 million of these children are actually obese.

A study conducted in 2003 by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute shows that one percent of Filipino children age 1-10 and three percent of adolescents age 11-17 were categorized as overweight.

Inactive lifestyle and the excessive intake of foods high in fat, sugar and salt are recognized factors for the rising number of overweight and obese children in the Philippines and elsewhere.

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

16 February 2009

Environmentalists Sue San Mateo Officials for Dumping in Watershed

San Mateo, Rizal- Concerned environmentalists and
citizens yesterday went to court to sue San Mateo Mayor Jose Rafael Diaz and Barangay Captain Cecilia Laceste for the illegal dumping in the Marikina watershed that is happening right under their noses.

Plaintiffs led by the EcoWaste Coalition, Buklod Tao, Rev. Fr. Alfred Albor and concerned residents asked the Regional Trial Court of San Mateo, Rizal (one of the "green courts" designated by the Supreme Court) to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the illegal dumping in Barangay Pintong Bukawe that contravenes Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Invoking their right to file a “citizen suit” under R. A. 9003, the plaintiffs accuse the defendants of “clear and blatant violation of the law” that prohibits and penalizes open dumping.

The filing of the case coincided with the anniversary of the much-maligned national deadline of closure for open dumps (16 February 2004) and controlled dumps (16 February 2006).

“Mayor Diaz and Barangay Captain Laceste have abused their power and positions and have brazenly defied R.A. 9003. By operating the municipal dump inside the Marikina Watershed, they have put at risk the health, safety and well-being of the residents of Barangay Pintong Bukawe and adjacent communities,” said Atty Armand Mejia, legal counsel of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Mejia described the open dumping in Barangay Pintong Bukawe as “grossly and patently “ violating Sections 37 and 48 of R.A. 9003, which ban the maintenance and operation of open dumps.

The plaintiffs assert that Barangay Pintong Bukawe is an environmentally-critical area as it is inside the Marikina Watershed Reservation. The dump which caters to mixed solid wastes of San Mateo since 2003 is situated along a ravine with a waterway located below.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare the open dump in Barangay Pintong Bukawe illegal and to order for its permanent closure and subsequent rehabilitation.

"Adding insult to injury, the two officials also allowed the construction of a new waste disposal facility in Barangay Pintong Bukawe," said Mejia.

"Our government officials are sacrificing the health and well-being of the people in the name of profit. The operation of the old landfill brought nothing but pollution, sickness and death to us. We don't want the nightmare to start all over again with the construction of the new landfill," said San Mateo community leader Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao.

Buklod Tao, the EcoWaste Coalition and other groups, including Greenpeace and the Coalition for a Garbage-Free San Mateo, have chided the authorities for allowing the construction of the new San Mateo Landfill in the said barangay in violation of an en banc decision by the Supreme

In a decision penned by Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, the Supreme Court on 13 December 2005 ordered the permanent closure of the old San Mateo landfill managed by the Metro Manila Development Authority, underscoring the fact that the waste facility “has adversely affected its environs and sources of water should always be protected.”

The landmark decision upheld the ban on the construction and operation of landfills or any waste disposal facility that will detrimentally affect environmentally-critical resources such as aquifers, groundwater reservoirs and watershed areas.

In lieu of polluting dumps and landfills, Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition are pushing for the enforcement of best practices in people-driven ecological waste management, excluding the wasteful and climate warming open burning and dumping of discards.

For more details, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition Secretariat at 929-0376.

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

12 February 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Gives Thumbs Down to BNPP

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog has added its voice to a soaring multi-sectoral movement challenging attempts to commission the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

In a statement issued by its Steering Committee, the EcoWaste Coalition rejected bills now pending before the House of Representatives and the Senate that seek to activate the controversial plant that has earned the monicker “monster of Morong.”

In a meeting held in Quezon City, the newly-constituted board of the Coalition affirmed their unity with Bishop Socrates Villegas, the Network Opposed to the BNPP (NO to BNPP), Freedom from Debt Coalition, Greenpeace, Green Convergence and other groups in asserting the primacy of public health and safety over the debatable benefits of going nuclear.

Bishop Villegas, who in July 2008 issued a passionate pastoral statement “Choose the Lord, Reject Evil” against reviving the BNPP, is set to lead a protest rally versus the contentious proposal on February 23 in front of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Balanga, Bataan.

The EcoWaste Coalition did not mince words in assailing the scheme to revive the plant as a “despicable act that explicitly imperils the public welfare and negates country’s goal of attaining just, humane and sustainable development.”

“We strongly disapprove the revival of the BNPP as it completely trashes the people’s hard-fought win to prevent its operation due to deep-seated public health, safety, financial and sustainability concerns,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“We join Bishop Socrates Villegas, the Diocese of Balanga, the NO to BNPP and other oppositors in rejecting the extremely flawed and irresponsible plan to operate the mothballed power plant,” they declared.

The EcoWaste Coalition expressed highest concern on how the byproduct nuclear waste of the plant will be disposed, pointing to the fact that government agencies are already struggling as it is, if not failing on the issue of ecological management of regular municipal discards.

To inform the ongoing debate about the BNPP’s safety, the EcoWaste Coalition called on the authorities to publicly disclose the results of a confidential study that was commissioned by the government in 1988-92. The study purportedly did not support the activation of the plant due to safety issues.

While refuting nuclear energy as the most costly and most dangerous source of power, the EcoWaste Coalition pushed for alternative energy sources that are safe, non-toxic, climate-friendly and sustainable.

The group cautioned lawmakers against making any appropriations for the rehabilitation of the BNPP, stressing that such action will surely undermine investments in clean, safe and renewable energy sources that abound in the country.

“We have already suffered so much in paying for the BNPP – a sickening case of a fraudulent, wasteful and useless debt – and we need not suffer some more and sink deeper into what surely is a financial quagmire,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

The EcoWaste Coalition advised pro-BNPP politicians to desist from raising it from the dead as the group reminded them of the heroic fight of the late Senators Lorenzo Tañada and Jose Diokno against the “monster of Morong.”

“We urge our legislators to honor the legacy of Sen. Tañada, Sen. Diokno, and the countless women and men who resisted the BNPP during the darkest period of the dictatorship, and withdraw their support for the bills,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Sen. Tañada, grandfather of Quezon Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III once described the BNPP as a “monument to a man’s folly, pride and refusal to admit mistakes.”

Comprising the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee are the Alaga LAHAT, Cavite Green Coalition, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Earth Renewal Project, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Sanib Lakas ng Inang Kalikasan, Sustainable Agriculture
Apostolate of the Diocese of Tandag and the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation.

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

09 February 2009

Groups Back Bayong Making as Green Job Solution

Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation have thrown their support behind the plan of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to invest in community-based bayong enterprises.

The green groups expressed confidence that the bayong project under the government’s Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP), if properly implemented, will help in generating sustainable jobs, particularly in the countryside.

The groups made this observation as various stakeholders meet today at a summit convened by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to strategize on how to preserve and create jobs in the middle of a global economic slowdown.

“Investments in the production of bayong using indigenous and renewable materials could spur local self-reliance with the creation of much-needed jobs amid the increasing unemployment,” Ofelia Panganiban of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Eco-Livelihood said.

Based on DTI calculations, the domestic demand for bayong can reach as much as P1.3 billion yearly if every Filipino family above the poverty threshold buys a bayong at P100 per year.

“The fact that many consumers are beginning to realize the environmental and climate effects of plastic bags and are slowly switching back to bayong and other reusable carry bags as eco-friendly shopping companions will surely guarantee market demand for the timeless bayong,” Cathy Untalan, Executive Director of the Miss Earth Foundation, added.

“To complement the bayong livelihood project, we urge the DTI as well as the local government units (LGUs) to take bold steps to regulate and restrict the use of plastic bags and proactively promote the use of bayong and other eco-friendly alternatives,” the EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation stated.

Imposing environmental levy on plastic bags and banning their use for non-essential purposes (for example, as buntings for community fiestas and other festive occasions) are some of the concrete steps that LGUs can take to curb plastic pollution, the groups said.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation, which have been holding “Balik-Bayong” direct communication activities since 2006, listed several ways to boost consumer support for the handy bayong.

a. For groceries, supermarkets and department stores to offer their customers options before routinely putting goods in plastic bags, and to provide financial incentives (i.e., discount or rebate) for those who bring their own bayong or other eco-substitutes such as reusable bags and
used boxes.

b. For the DTI to sponsor a creative design contest in bayong-making to upgrade the style and durability of the bayong.

c. For the DTI to carry out a year-round “Balik-Bayong” drive with the help of publicly recognized business, political, religious, sports, showbiz and beauty personalities.

d. For the Department of Social Welfare and Development, local government units, and secular, religious and corporate charities to use bayong for all disaster relief operations and for the traditional gift-giving during Christmas.

e. For Congress to enact a comprehensive “Bayong Sustainability Act” to ensure continued support, promotion and development for the bayong, locally and globally.

“Balik-Bayong, we believe, is truly a sustainable solution that we should embrace as our country deal with swelling unemployment and the adverse impacts of wasteful consumption, climate change and chemical pollution,” the EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation said.

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

08 February 2009

Green Groups Promote Eco-Friendly, Toxics-Free Valentine's Day

Quezon City. Multi-awarded actress and environmental champion Chin-Chin Gutierrez led a pre-Valentine event by environmental groups at the National Ecology Center and Mini-Forest Park in Quezon City to campaign for an eco-friendly, toxics-free Valentine's Day, sharing tips for Pinoy couples on how to turn the red letter day into "green."

Together with her organization Alaga LAHAT and the EcoWaste Coalition, Gutierrez, who was once honored by Time Magazine as one of the Asian heroes for the environment, called on everyone to celebrate V-Day with the environment in mind as she invited the public to support “I Love Our Home Earth” – a year-round movement for ecological responsibility and stewardship.

Some people say it's corny, overrated, and highly commercialized. Nevertheless, every year when V-Day comes around there are splashes of reds and pinks everywhere, as these are supposed to be the colors of love. While one special day devoted to the one you love sounds romantic, many hapless couples fall into the commercial trap and end up digging deeper into their pockets than they can afford, and unconsciously contributing to waste and toxic pollution, all in the name of love.

Imagine yourself on your “perfect” Valentine date. You take your special someone out to dinner in a romantic, pricey restaurant, you give her red roses, perfume, and maybe jewelry, you enjoy your hearty meal, perhaps even in candlelight. But go beyond scents, taste and aesthetics, and you might realize that you are poisoning her with pesticide-drenched roses. The perfume you chose probably contains ingredients that can affect her reproductive health. The gold used in the jewelry could come from mines that destroy our remaining forest covers, displace communities and trash the ecosystems with cyanide and mercury-contaminated mine tailings.

These health, environmental and social concerns are real, reminded Alaga LAHAT and the EcoWaste Coalition, and should not be ignored as we mark the festive day of the hearts.

“Love means you never have to say you’re toxic!” says Gutierrez, founding Chair and President of Alaga LAHAT. “What we do to our home, Earth, we do to ourselves. Sadly, our very own lifestyles poison our air, water and soil, as well as our thoughts, feelings and actions in all levels of
marketing, consuming, taking, wasting, dumping… Yes we have become a 'throw away' and toxic society. On the other hand love is an act of sustaining one another, the way Nature sustains us.”

“The more we simplify and strip down to the basics, the closer we get to living responsibly. Let us show our love not only to people but also to the mother who has given us all that we need to live, Earth,” says Tanya Conlu, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s project on chemical safety.

“I Love Our Home Earth” movement, spearheaded by Alaga LAHAT, will continue beyond Valentine's Day in promoting a perennial concern and love for our shared home the Earth, among our people through timely and creative activities. “Each of us is a little earth. Polluting our bodies with junk food, addictive substances and products filled with chemicals is like throwing toxic waste into our rivers and streams: we become 'walking dumpsites'”, adds Gutierrez. “Time to change, time to co-create with Nature, time to love our one and only home, Earth. Happy Green Valentine’s Day!”

Go ahead, splurge, and express your love, as long as you do not burden the earth with how you show it. Be romantic but don't forget to be environmentally responsible. This year's Valentine's Day luckily falls on a weekend, so there is more room to be creative and thoughtful.

The following are some tips on how to make your heart grow greener for V-day:

1. NO TO PLASTIC LOVE. Refrain from patronizing products in multi-layered packaging materials and simply say no to plastic bags. Bring a reusable bag when you shop and pick items in minimal packaging or those packed in recycled paper, jute, raffia and hemp twine, and other natural, renewable fibers, which look very fashionable and takes a lot of weight off the earth.

2. SPURN DISPOSABLE LOVE. Let us veer away from single use items. They may be convenient and “inexpensive,” but in reality more environmentally costly as their production consumes lots of energy and takes up much of the planet's raw resources, while creating too much residual garbage.

3. GIVE PURE LOVE. Make sure that the pretty gifts you give do not mask ugly toxins, which are hazardous to the health and the environment. Avoid products containing synthetic fragrances, toxic dyes, phthalates, formaldehyde and other chemicals of concern. To check on the toxicity and potential health hazards of chemicals in cosmetics, please visit www.cosmeticsdatabase.com.

4. PLANT AND GROW LOVE. Choose a gift that will last forever, and will not cost you an arm and a leg like a diamond. Why not go and plant a tree as a couple on V-day? This way you can bond as you nurture something that will last beyond your lifetimes. Alternative green growing gifts are fragrant flowers in pots, which can be used as alternatives to air fresheners, and herbs such as aloe vera for a natural hair treatment and conditioner.

5. FEED THE EARTH WITH LOVE. Cut your waste size by composting and starting your own mini fertilizer factory at the comfort of your home. Composting is no rocket science and a little effort can go a long way into reducing the emission of methane and other greenhouse gases from dumpsites, which threaten the climate and the long-term health of our communities.

6. LOVE YOUR HEALTH. Eat healthy and try something new by dining at a vegetarian restaurant. If you can go the extra mile and turn vegetarian, you trim down your ecological footprint, or your impact on the Earth’s ecosystems, as eating meat contributes significantly to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, freshwater scarcity and global warming.

7. LOVE YOUR HEART. Breathe fresh air and get some exercise to increase blood circulation by strolling through a park or going outdoors. If you have more time, go camping. Take your date to a place where there are lots of trees and absorb the positive energy together.

8. LOVE MORE, GIVE BLOOD. Be a blood donor. Give blood – the most precious gift of life and love - to the Philippine National Red Cross and help those in need.

9. SHARE LOVE. Speak out. Blog, email, text, call or write an actual letter to share these tips with all the people that you love, to show that you care for them. Never scrimp on telling those close to you that you love them, and extend that love to the one who has been nurturing you, our
one and only home Earth.

10. BE PART OF “I LOVE OUR HOME EARTH” movement. Take action one step at a time. Be involved in promoting ecological responsibility and stewardship. For further information please contact Alaga LAHAT by subscribing to ILoveOurHomeEarth@yahoogroups.com.

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

Letter: Wasteland

Why do we always have to be the ones to suffer?

I can’t help but ask this question, being a resident of San Mateo for more than 35 years and having witnessed the grandeur of our environment lost in the passage of time. The “development” of San Mateo has been left unchecked by our government for many years and with its vested interests turned the once nature's haven into a barren wasteland: giant land developing corporations such as Filinvest Land Incorporated, Progressive Land Developers and Palmera have leveled the town's mountains for their housing projects, destroying trees and burying headwater and creeks, quarry companies decimating our beautiful landscape releasing tons of silt and mud in waterways and agricultural lands, and rich individuals carving the lands according to their desire.

It is no wonder why San Mateo has been a town of disasters, with flash floods, landslides and mudslides occurring every time a heavy downpour, typhoon or other hazards visit the country.

Adding insult to injury, the people of San Mateo are again being forced to accept the effluence of other towns and Metro Manila’s.

In its en banc decision last December 2005, the Supreme Court, with finality, ordered the perpetual closure, of the landfill being operated by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) which is located in Barangay Pintong Bukawe, San Mateo. The court cited for its decision the environmental significance of the barangay as part of the Marikina Watershed Reservation and highlighted the provision of Ecological Solid Waste Management Act that no landfills should be put up inside a environmentally-critical area. The case against the MMDA was filed by the local government of San Mateo, the provincial government of Rizal and non-government groups.

Three years have passed, the LGU of San Mateo is singing a different tune. Along with the Provincial Government of Rizal, they are now pushing for a new landfill that will be built inside the same barangay. The new landfill will again cater to tons of mixed solid waste of Metro Manila and nearby towns, recreating again the havoc that was experienced by San Mateo during the operation of the old landfill.

The new landfill will again result in stinking garbage trucks running back and forth across the town, toxic garbage leachate escaping into the environment and contaminating the land, water and air. Different operators, same operation, same problems but multiple disaster risk for the populace.

It is the right of everyone to live in a healthy and safe environment. We, the people of San Mateo also deserve this right.

Noli Abinales

Buklod Tao/ Task Force Dumps- EcoWaste Coalition

Dona Pepeng Subdivision, Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal


05 February 2009

New Study Raises Concern over Mercury Pollution from Burning Products

Quezon City- A new study released today around the world shows that the burning of mercury-added products contributes upwards of 200 tons of mercury to the atmosphere every year, comprising 10 percent of the mercury that enters the earth’s atmosphere through human activities. The study entitled “Mercury Rising: Reducing Global Emissions from Burning Mercury-Added Products” released by several international non-governmental organizations,i notes that mercury emissions from product wastes have been inadequately understood and seriously underestimated.

The launch of the Report coincides with the 3rd anniversary of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) that over 100 governments, including the Philippines, adopted on 6 February 2006 to foster and achieve chemical safety.

“Based on this report’s findings, we believe it is important to recognize that the burning of products containing mercury is much more significant than previously suspected,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. “Our review shows that burning mercury product wastes contributes at least two times more mercury emissions to the global atmosphere than previously thought.”

Globally, the report shows that the main sources of air emissions from the burning of mercury-added products in waste such as fluorescent light bulbs, mercury thermometers, not including manufacturing wastes, are as follows:

  • municipal and hazardous waste incineration (41% of the total air emissions related to burning of mercury-added products)

  • landfill fires and open burning of mercury-added products in waste (45% of the total).

  • medical waste incineration (11% of the total), and

  • municipal wastewater sludge incineration (3% of the total).

Gigie Cruz-Sy of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) explains that “The report underscores the harmful environmental and health impacts posed by incineration or burning. It is time to recognize that combustion of mercury-added products in incinerators, landfill fires and open burning of domestic waste is a significant contributor of mercury and other toxics to both local and global ecosystems.”

The report shows the magnitude of emissions in East and Southeast Asia due to landfill fires and open burning of domestic waste. These observations, the study notes, reflect a combination of significant open burning, especially in rural areas, a large quantity of products containing mercury in the region, and very low recycling rates.

Formal incineration of municipal waste is not common in most countries in Asia, noted the study. The generation of large volumes of waste, the relatively high use and disposal of mercury-added products, and the incineration in Japan of a very high percentage of its waste explain the magnitude of regional atmospheric mercury emissions from incineration.

“We urge countries to take immediate steps to stop incineration as a method of waste disposal, including mercury burning practices, and move expeditiously towards safe, just, sustainable and more environmentally-sound alternatives,” said Atty. Richard Gutierrez of Ban Toxics.

The report recommends that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at its upcoming February meeting in Nairobi, establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the purpose of negotiating a free-standing legally binding instrument on mercury.

In the interim period before such an instrument becomes effective, the report recommends UNEP to take the following action:

  • Assume responsibility for the awareness-raising, analytical, technical and legal support activities necessary to encourage manufacturers of mercury-added products, and countries where such manufacturers are located, to identify and implement the actions.

  • Recognize that combustion of mercury-added products in incinerators, landfill fires and open burning of domestic waste is a significant contributor of mercury and other toxics to both local and global ecosystems, and urge countries to take steps to stop these practices and to move expeditiously towards safe, just, sustainable and more environmentally-sound alternatives.

i This report is authored by the Mercury Policy Project: see www.mercurypolicy.org, and is co-released by the following:

The Zero Mercury Working group is an international coalition of more than 40 public interest non-governmental organizations from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project/Ban Mercury Working Group. The aim of the group is to continually reduce emissions, demand and supply of mercury, from all sources we can control, with the goal of eliminating mercury in the environment at EU level and globally. Please see www.zeromercury.org

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives / Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) is a worldwide alliance of more than 600 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 80 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. GAIA work against incinerators and for safe, sustainable and just alternatives. Further information may be found at www.no-burn.org

Ban Toxics! is an independent non-profit Asian regional environmental non-governmental organization that is focused on empowering local communities on the issue of toxics in order to reform national and regional toxics policy, making it more responsive and respectful to the needs of people and the environment. Ban Toxics! is an active member of Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) and is the Asia-Pacific node of the Basel Action Network. Please see www.bantoxics.multiply.com

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

04 February 2009

DOH Urged to Prevent Women’s Exposure to Hormone Disruptors

Quezon City. An environmental alliance working on chemical safety policy reforms today called on Health Secretary Duque to initiate measures that will prevent women’s exposure to hormone-mimicking chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition aired this request for action as it releases the report “Girl, Disrupted: Hormone Disruptors and Women’s Reproductive Health” published by the US-based Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE).

“Girl, Disrupted,” based on cutting-edge research and reviewed by top scientists in the field, sheds light on what hormone disruptors are and how these chemicals harm women’s reproductive systems, particularly at critical stages of development.

The new report says that manmade, hormone-like chemicals in the environment harm women’s reproductive systems, particularly when exposure occurs during prenatal and early life development, stressing that more focused research is needed to fully understand how.

“I continue to be surprised by the number of doctors that come up to me at conferences and comment on what they are seeing in their patients that they have never seen before,” said Dr. Tracey Woodruff, Director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) at the University of California, San Francisco, reviewer of the report.

“Girls entering puberty at extremely young ages, young women suffering from the inability to get pregnant and conditions normally associated with older ages such as very painful fibroids, endometriosis and breast cancer,” she said.

In a letter faxed to the Department of Health, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed concern over the effects of industrial chemicals as cited in the report that have been linked to serious health problems for women such as early puberty, infertility, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer and others.

“These industrial chemicals known as endocrine or hormone disruptors can disturb hormonal balances that are critical for the good health and development at all phases of a woman’s life,” Elsie Brandes-De Veyra of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee said.

“We therefore urge Secretary Duque to initiate policy solutions, applying the precautionary principle, that will adequately safeguard our girls and women from early- life exposures to these harmful chemicals that can cause later-life health issues and even multi-generational harm,” De Veyra added.

Hormone disruptors, the “Girl, Disrupted” explains, can get into the human bodies when we breathe, eat, drink and have skin contact with these harmful chemicals that can be found in household products as well as in cigarette smoke, industrial pollutants and some pesticides.

Some of these hormone disruptors include bisphenol A, which is commonly used in baby feeding bottles, sports bottles and in the linings of infant formula and canned foods, and phthalates, which are used in children’s products, cosmetics, medical devices and as plasticizer in polyvinyl

Other known hormone disruptors include chemicals in first and secondhand cigarette smoke, the dioxin byproducts from industrial and burning processes, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in transformer oils and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) used as flame retardant in electrical appliances, textiles, plastic foams and other products.

Studies show that the health impacts of these chemicals to hormonal functions depend on the potency and dose of the chemical, the timing of the exposure and the individual’s overall health, which can be shaped, among other factors, by the person’s genetic makeup, diet, physical habits, sexually transmitted diseases and access to healthcare.

In calling for action versus hormone disruptors, the EcoWaste Coalition asked Secretary Duque to support local research on endocrine disrupting chemicals and their effects on women’s health, and for him to support policies that will identify and phase out harmful chemicals in products and to require the use of safer substitutes.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically asked the Department of Health, as the principal public health and safety agency, to lead the process of listing non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging to be targeted for phase out under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

As for the consuming public, the EcoWaste Coalition encourages consumers to insist on toxics-free goods as a fundamental right, and to have access to chemical information, including a product’s chemical ingredients, health effects and eco-disposal, to facilitate informed choices.

“Girl, Disrupted” is available for free download at CHE, a nonprofit, nonpartisan global network of more than 3,000 individuals and organizations focused on the science of environmental health:


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

03 February 2009

Greens, Debt activists urge solons to push for cancellation of defunct incinerator loan from Austria

Quezon City- A string quartet today serenaded the members of the House of Representatives, calling on solons to sign a Parliamentarians’ Petition urging the Austrian government to cancel the P503-million loan used to fund for the defunct Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Project.

Playing Mozart music and wearing hazmat suits and gas masks, the group actively solicited the signatures of the legislators in its effort to continue the signature drive it started last year.

The group also called on Congress to do concrete actions on the said loan agreement, such as the launching of a Congressional audit and investigation on the loan project, saying that the debt list should be “detoxified."

The Stop Toxic Debt!, a campaign group composed of the Ecowaste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives(GAIA), Greenpeace-Southeast Asia, and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), said that the government is shelling out an average of $2 million a year to pay for the said Austrian loan.

“It is not enough for our solons to merely make political statements to refuse payment for the Austrian Waste Incinerators, more importantly, they should put their money where their mouths are by calling the Austrian government to cancel the debt themselves,” Ecowaste Coalition President Manny Calonzo said.

The groups launched a signature drive last year urging legislators to sign the Parliamentarians' Petition which is scheduled to be delivered by a contingent of Filipino campaigners and Legislators to the government of Austria this April 2009.

Calonzo said the choice of Mozart’s music for their string-quartet/ creative action is significant as the musical genius was an Austrian national who was said to have died impoverished and debt-ridden. He added that unless the Austrian incinerator debt is cancelled, it would surely
contribute in the further impoverishment and debt burden of the Filipino people.

Meanwhile, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Spokesperson Mercy Ferrer said that the fund channelled for the debt service funds is better spent for procuring “environmentally-safe medical waste disposal facilities.”

“We should compel governments to take action to end illegitimate debts, especially those which harm the environment and people’s health while eating up our resources supposedly for environmental protection and healthcare,” Ferrer said.


The group recalled that the 14th Congress, in a special provision, refused allocation for interest payments of the incinerators in the 2008 budget and of other debts challenged as “fraudulent, wasteful, and/or useless”.

The Stop Toxic Debt! Campaign is said to be instrumental in the suspension of interest and principal payments of the said Austrian loan in the 2008 budget. However, the President eventually vetoed the said provision, citing the need to protect the country’s credit rating.

For the 2009 budget, the 14th Congress again slashed P50 billion from interest payments proposed by the Department of Budget and Management.

Committee on Appropriations Vice Chair Rep. Edcel Lagman, in his sponsorship speech, called on the lower house to suspend not just the interest payments, but also the principal amortization for the said loan.

“As the World Bank begins to uncover irregularities in its loan projects, we have here an illegitimate Austrian loan project sitting on the laps of the government for more than a decade, but without concrete action,” FDC Secretary General Milo Tanchuling said.

“Clearly, in a time of a world economic crisis and financial turndown, Congress must avoid unnecessary expenditures by conducting good housekeeping and getting rid of illegitimate debts in their lists of expenses,” Tanchuling said.

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

02 February 2009

Church and Eco-Group Bat for Clean Recycling Jobs

Quezon City. Recycling jobs can make up for the looming job losses due to the global economic slowdown.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate of green jobs from clean recycling, pushes for expanded recycling programs to stimulate job creation amid threat of massive unemployment with the worsening global job crisis.

“Safe and non-toxic recycling of discards can stimulate green enterprises that can generate revenues and jobs for our communities,” Ofelia Panganiban of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Eco-Livelihood said.

“Diverting funds from dirty disposal to clean recycling aside from creating jobs will also help in conserving resources and in reducing the climate impact of our wasteful lifestyle,” Panganiban added.

The EcoWaste Coalition found a strong ally in Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) who gave his support to the group’s push for clean recycling jobs.

“With declining employment and warming climate, clean recycling jobs offer real economic opportunities for our people,” Bishop Iñiguez, head of the CBCP Public Affairs Committee, said.

“I urge the authorities to look at the proven potentials of clean recycling in creating a wealth of jobs and in restoring the environment as we grapple with the mounting job woes,” Bishop Iñiguez.

The threat of nearly 500,000 Filipinos workers losing their jobs this year due to reduced economic growth prompted both the EcoWaste Coalition and Bishop Iñiguez to push for clean recycling jobs.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque projected 200,000 job losses in six months, while Citigroup, a US financial services company, calculated that 470,000 Filipinos could lose their jobs this year.

In backing recycling jobs, the EcoWaste Coalition referred to a study made by the National Recycling Coalition for the US Environmental Protection Agency that illustrated the value of reuse and recycling to the US economy.

The “US Recycling Economic Information Study” showed that the country’s reuse and recycling industry employs as much as 1.1 million people and generates a whopping annual revenue of $236 billion.

The same study also documented that the reuse and recycling industry in US indirectly supported 1.4 million jobs in support industries such as accounting and office supply companies that have a payroll of $52 billion and sales amounting to $173 billion.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the country’s recycling rate remains low with the poor implementation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“If the law’s requirements on waste segregation at source, recycling and recycling market development are truly enforced, we can expect more green jobs being created and more discards being diverted away from polluting dumps,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

The group cited the work of the Invisible Project in Pasay City, Kilus Foundation in Pasig City, Rags 2 Riches in Quezon City, Preda Foundation in Olongapo City, Earth Day Network in Antipolo City, and Buklod Tao in San Mateo Rizal as some of the many innovative people-driven eco-ventures providing income to community women who skillfully transform used juice packs, tarpaulin sheets, plastic bags and fabric scraps into creative functional goods like bags.

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