31 May 2009

PHOTO: Walk against Smoking!

SHOW THE TRUTH: Pollution prevention advocates from the EcoWaste Coalition join the “World No Tobacco Day” parade in support of Congressional approval of picture-based health warning law to raise awareness on the hazards of tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke. The green activists also drew attention to the problematic disposal of cigarette butts – “the most littered toxic waste in the country” – that disperse stored chemicals, toxins and tars to the environment when discarded.

Green Groups Boost Drive for Graphic Tobacco Health Warnings to Curb Use and Pollution

Quezon City. Campaigners for pollution prevention and chemical safety have joined forces with advocates for tobacco control in urging the 14th Congress to rush the approval of picture-based health warnings on cigarettes.

Members of the EcoWaste Coalition joined the festive “World No Tobacco Day” parade today organized by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) and other groups, carrying a green banner that says “Show the truth! Cigarettes are toxic to health and environment.”

Donning colorful head gears depicting the exotic kalaw (rufuous hornbills). the environmentalists also called attention to the uncaringly tossed toxin-filled cigarette butts that can end up in water bodies, polluting the water and killing birds, fish and other wildlife who mistake them for food.

Apart from saving lives, the EcoWaste Coalition sees graphic health warnings on tobacco use as necessary to halt pollution from cigarette butts – “the most littered toxic waste in the country.”

Far from being benign, discarded butts contain some 4,000 left-over chemicals that can leach and harm the ecosystems, especially the marine life. Butts can take up to 15 years to break down, releasing the accrued chemicals and tars in the process.

Among the green groups who took part in the event were the Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice, Ban Toxics, Buklod Tao, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Earth Renewal Project, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation, Inc. and concerned students from St. Scholastica's College.

“We are one with FCAP in pushing for effective control policies and measures to curb alarming tobacco consumption, especially among the Filipino youth,” declared retired nurse Elsie Brandes De Veyra of the EcoWaste Coalition, a network of 85 groups committed to advancing human and ecological health.

FCAP, along with the Department of Health and the World Health Organization, has been campaigning for graphic warnings on cigarette packages in line with WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that the Philippines ratified in 2005.

The EcoWaste Coalition expressed concern over the rising prevalence of smoking among the Filipino youth as shown in the Global Youth Tobacco Survey that indicates alarming increase in smoking among boys aged 13-15 years old, which rose from 49% in 2004 to 51% in 2007, and also among girls of the same age bracket, which jumped from 27% in 2004 to 30% in 2007.

“We join the clamor for a law that will effectively notify and caution our people, particularly the youth, about the hazards of tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke through pictures or pictograms, “said film and stage actor Roy Alvarez, another leader of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The whole society will benefit from being informed about the terrible consequences of tobacco addiction that is killing our people and dirtying our environment with toxic smoke and cigarette butts,” he added.

“The critical awareness will lead to reduced tobacco use and disposal of cigarette butts, the most littered toxic waste in the country and the world,” Alvarez said.

According to the 2008 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, most smokers are unaware of the risks of tobacco use, its extreme addictiveness and the full range of health dangers associated with smoking.

The report identified comprehensive warnings about the dangers of tobacco as critical to changing its image, especially among adolescents and young adults.

“Health warnings on tobacco packages increase smokers’ awareness of their risk. Use of pictures with graphic depictions of disease and other negative images has greater impact than words alone, and is critical in reaching the large number of people worldwide who cannot read,” the report pointed out.

“Expanded warnings encourage tobacco users to quit and young people not to start, and help gain public acceptance of other tobacco-control measures such as establishing smoke-free environments,” the report said.

The WHO reported that 100 million deaths were caused by tobacco in the 20th century. If current trends continue, there will be up to one billion deaths in the 21st century. Unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than eight million a year by 2030, and 80% of those
deaths will occur in the developing world, including the Philippines.

28 May 2009

Aglipayan Church Oppose Cavite Landfill

TERNATE, Cavite- A bishop and 21 priests of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) have joined the residents of Ternate, Cavite in vehemently opposing the establishment of a “sanitary” landfill within the watershed area of the said town.

The religious community of the Aglipayan church in the province of Cavite expressed their unity with the anti-landfill movement through a resolution signed by Bishop Pedro Ojascastro and 21 priests from the various parishes.

In the said resolution, the religious leaders cited the risk posed by the disposal facility to the environment and livelihood of the Ternatenos and the wide resistance from the town's residents as reasons for going against the project.

It will be recalled that 4,000 residents of Ternate and nearby municipalities of Maragondon and Naic marched on September 25, 2008 to show their disapproval against the controversial project.

A flagship project of Governor Ayong Maliksi, the landfill is to be built in Barangay Sapang and within the Mt. Palay-Palay/ Mataas na Gulod Natural Park, the only remaining forest and the biggest watershed in Cavite. The host barangay has also been identified by the Local Water Utilities Authority (LUWA) as part of the groundwater basin area of Ternate.

Once completed, the eight hectare landfill will receive garbage from Cavite’s 23 cities and municipalities.

Two environmental health and justice coalitions lauded Bishop Ojacastro and the Aglipayan clergy for speaking up against the landfill project.

“We laud the IFI for supporting the struggle of the Ternatenos against the construction of the landfill. The people don’t need this toxic facility that will pollute their own source of drinking water. It is time for our government leaders to listen to the people. Ternate landfill must be stopped!” said Ochie Tolentino, coordinator of the Cavite Green Coalition.

“The government and people of Cavite should shy away from the expensive and destructive collect and dump waste management system. We urge them to set up and operate barangay-level materials recovery facilities to cut the untenable dependence on dumping that only hides the stinking evidence of our wastefulness,” said Rei Panaligan, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

27 May 2009

Green Groups Back Bill Banning Toxic Chemicals in Toys

Quezon City. Chemical safety advocates from public interest groups have thrown their support behind a bill that will protect children from developmental and reproductive toxicants known as phthalates.

The EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Greenpeace pressed the House Committee on the Welfare of Children at a public hearing today to fast track the passage of House Bill 5896 filed by Rep. Narciso Santiago III.

If enacted, the bill will prohibit the sale of toys and other articles with phthalates intended for children three years of age and below that could imperil their growth and lead to developmental disorders, hormonal disruptions and reproductive abnormalities.

“Chemicals that could put the health and safety of our children at risk should absolutely have no place in children’s toys,” commented Rei Panaligan, coordinator of the waste and pollution watchdog.

“We hope that the 14th Congress will prioritize this bill and ensure its immediate approval. A law that will adequately protect our children from toxic phthalates will be the best gift that this Congress can give to our children, especially with the Christmas season just over the horizon,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition provided members of the Committee with papers detailing the risks and hazards of phthalates, especially for kids who are most prone to ingesting these harmful substances when they suck or chew on plastic toys and articles.

The EcoWaste Coalition challenged lawmakers to take cue from recent US and European decisions banning phthalates to prevent children’s exposure from these health-damaging substances.

The US Congress in 2008 banned six phthalates from children’s toys and cosmetics, while the European Union imposed a ban in 2007 on the use of phthalates in toys and other articles that are targeted for children under the age of three.

At the national workshop on chemical safety sponsored by the EcoWaste Coalition on 27-28 January 2009 in UP Diliman, over 150 participants vowed to campaign to “save children from toxic harm.”

The participants, mostly coming from the grassroots, urged the government, the industry and the civil society, to promote the safety of developing fetuses, infants and children who are defenseless to contamination from toxic chemicals such as phthalates.

A 2005 European Union directive on phthalates in toys emphasized that the precautionary principle should be applied to ensure a high level of protection of health, in particular for children.

“Children as developing organisms are particularly vulnerable to reprotoxic substances. Therefore, the exposure of children to all practically avoidable sources of emissions of these substances, especially from articles which are put into the mouth by children, should be reduced as far as possible,” the European Union said.

“We owe it to our children to make the toys and other products designed, manufactured and traded for their consumption to be free of all toxins that can impair their health and their ability to live fully,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

21 May 2009

Cardinal Rosales Gives Thumbs Up to Climate-Friendly 2010 Polls: "Our exercise of democracy should not inflict harm on Mother Earth"

Quezon City. The Archbishop of Manila, an acclaimed environmental champion, gave his resounding support to a civil society campaign to green the upcoming local and national elections in 2010.

“As the countdown to the May 2010 elections begins, I urge Filipinos to be vigilant in minimizing the adverse impact to the environment and climate that the election campaign and the actual voting day can bring,” said Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales.

In his“Statement of Solidarity and Support,” Cardinal Rosales joins the green groups in pushing for “the triumph of democracy in an exercise that is free of fraud, waste and pollution.”

“I support the combined efforts of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation to promote waste prevention and reduction in the 2010 election preparation and campaign period,” stated Cardinal Rosales.

“Our exercise of democracy should not inflict harm on Mother Earth and her capacity to feed, house and sustain all creation. Genuine democracy upholds the sanctity of life and promotes environmental health and justice at all times,” the Cardinal pointed out.

The revered church leader called on all election stakeholders, including the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and related government offices, political parties and party list groups, candidates and supporters, poll watchdogs and the electorate, “to commit to a low carbon and low waste campaign.”

“Let us bring to bear God’s gift of democracy and respond to the call for ecological stewardship and citizenship so that nothing is wasted,” the Cardinal added.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, was elated to receive the backing of Cardinal Rosales who has endeared himself to green activists for championing zero waste resource management, renewable energy, the protection of the Marikina watershed, the removal of the Pandacan oil depot and many other environmental health and justice issues.

“We thank and laud Cardinal Rosales for bestowing his support on our mission to put the public health, environment and climate at the center of the 2010 polls,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We urge all election stakeholders to heed his advice and make our vibrant democracy less burdensome to Mother Earth who is besieged by garbage, greenhouse gases and persistent organic pollutants from human activities,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation recently launched their year-long campaign to green the polls with the support of Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., COMELEC commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Armand Velasco and Leonard Leonida, Miss Earth 2008 Karla Paula Henry, Miss Earth-Water 2006 Cathy Untalan, Miss Philippines-Earth 2009 Sandra Seifert and her court.

The groups vowed to reach out to concerned members of the society to curb wastefulness in the 2010 polls and promote respect and compliance to the country’s electoral and environmental laws.

The groups particularly exhorted likeminded citizens’ movements at the national and local levels to include campaign waste prevention and reduction in their advocacies to reform the electoral processes.

“Let us all strive to safeguard not only the sanctity of the ballot, but also the integrity of the environment and the triumph of the common good,” the groups said.

17 May 2009

Green Group Raises Red Flag vs. Toxic School Supplies

Quezon City. As parents shop for new school supplies for the incoming academic year, a public interest group working on chemical safety warned against “toxic buys” that can expose kids to harmful chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition pressed for consumer vigilance against school items that contain dangerous substances such as those described as “intellectual robbers” or chemicals that can get in the way of a child’s mental and behavioral development.

“Back-to-school shopping can be woefully toxic,” lamented Sonia Mendoza of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Mother Earth Foundation.

“Whether you bargain hunt in Divisoria or buy in mall shops, you will be swamped with colorful and trendy items containing lots of chemicals that can pose significant health risks, especially in growing kids,” she observed.

“We are particularly uneasy with the obviously unregulated glut of school supplies that are made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic such as backpacks, binders, lunch boxes and clear plastic sheets as book and notebook cover. Consumers need to be watchful of these toxic buys,”
Mendoza said.

“Teachers should not require students to use plastic sheets as cover for books and notebooks. Manila paper, old calendars and used magazines are good cover materials if covers are required. In fact, books and notebooks need not be covered if students take good care of their school things,” she added.

PVC plastic, often labeled as “vinyl” or plastic # 3, contains poisonous additives to soften or stabilize it such as phthalates (pronounced as “thal-ates”) that can eventually seep out or disperse into the air posing risks to children’s health.

An EcoWaste Coalition’s fact sheet on phthalates noted US and European Union decisions to ban the use of phthalates in children’s toys and articles. In the Philippines, Sen. Lito Lapid has filed a bill banning phthalates on cosmetics and personal care products, while Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has a pending bill for phthalate-free toys.

To back its advocacy, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the “Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies” that the US-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) published to empower parents to make smarter and healthier shopping choices.

The CHEJ Guide pointed out that “children are at risk from even small exposure to these toxic chemicals. That’s why it’s especially important to purchase PVC-free school supplies.” It further recommended that consumers avoid three other plastics because of their toxic contents: acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC) and polystyrene (PS).

The disposal of PVC products is also a complicated problem, observed the EcoWaste Coalition, since these products do not biodegrade and discharge dioxins, the most toxic substance known to science, when burned.

“Given the known health and environmental risks, we urge consumers to be on the side of precaution and go for safer, healthy and ecological alternatives to PVC school products,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Some of these alternatives include cloth, nylon and polyester backpacks, cardboard, fabric or poly plastic binders, cloth lunch bags, and unlined stainless steel or opaque plastic bottles.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children are exposed to a large number of chemicals of both natural and man-made origin.

Chronic, low-level exposure to various chemicals may result in a number of adverse outcomes, including damage to the nervous and immune systems, impairment of reproductive function and development, cancer, and organ-specific damage, the WHO advised.

15 May 2009

Environmentalists Back Bishops and Farmers in Seeking CARP’s Extension

Quezon City. An environmental coalition has joined Archbishop Angel Lagdameo in pushing for Congressional approval of a key legislation on agrarian reform and social justice.

Archbishop Lagdameo, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), earlier cited the farmers for their “noble task of making the earth fruitful” as he implored lawmakers’ compassion for the rural poor.

In a statement made in conjunction with the feast day of St. Isidore, patron saint of the farmers, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed solidarity with the farmers and their supporters as they persevere in getting the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) extended.

The group appealed to the conscience of every lawmaker to respond to the farmers’ plea for humane and just development by extending and funding a reformed CARP.

“We join the country’s peasants, bishops and all champions of rural justice in asking the 14th Congress to work overtime to ensure the passage of an extended and improved CARP,” said George Dadivas, Secretary of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“We appeal to all legislators not to give in to peer pressure and ensure that all essential requirements to make the law of real benefit and service to the Filipino farmers will not be watered down or scrapped entirely,” he said.

Dadivas voiced support for a fortified CARP that will, among others, mandate its implementation for a five year period, including compulsory acquisition, provision of collateral free credit and expanded support services, and recognition of other farmers’ legal rights and entitlements.

“As a public interest network committed to environmental, climate and social justice, we find it very important to speak out and add our voice to the just quest of our farmers not only for land to own and till, but for human dignity and freedom from deprivation,” he said.

As it joins the farmers and the CBCP in calling for CARP’s extension, the EcoWaste Coalition also aired its plea for ecological farming that will cut farmers’ dependence on toxic pesticides and other synthetic inputs and halt wasteful and polluting practices such as burning agricultural discards.

The EcoWaste Coalition at their last General Assembly formed a Task Force on Ecological Agriculture to contribute to the pressing need to promote natural and organic farming in light of the increasing problems with chemical pollution and climate change.

13 May 2009

Bishop, Commissioners, Beauty Queens and Activists Call for Zero Waste

INTRAMUROS, Manila. Three election commissioners, eight pro-environment beauty queens, a church leader and some 65 environmental activists spoke as one in urging political parties and wannabees to think “green” as they woo the “Pinoy” votes.

With just 12 months away from the national and local polls in May 2010, Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. and Commissioners Rene V. Sarmiento, Armand Velasco and Leonard Leonida joined the EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation in exhorting all election stakeholders to heed the plea for reduced campaign waste and pollution.

Together with the newly-crowned Miss Philippines-Earth 2009 winners, green-clad members of the EcoWaste Coalition launched the campaign for “Zero Waste 2010 Elections” in a simple ceremony held outside the headquarters of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Intramuros, Manila.

Among those who graced the event were Miss Earth 2008 Karla Paula Henry, Miss Philippines-Earth 2009 Sandra Seifert, Miss Philippines-Ecotourism Adie Adelantar, Miss Philippines-Fire Patricia Marie Tumulak, Miss Philippines-Air Michelle Martha Braun, Miss Philippines-Water Catherine Loyola, and Miss Philippines-Earth finalist Kirstie Ann Babor.

Also joining the event were the representatives of Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, EARTH UST, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Krusada sa Kalikasan, November 17 Movement, Sanib Lakas ng Inang Kalikasan, Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines and other green groups.

“The changes that we seek in 2010 should also embrace efforts to green the electoral platforms and the way the massive campaign to entice voters is conducted,” said Bishop Iñiguez, head of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“I’m happy to support the work of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation to promote climate-friendly polls through ecological campaign practices, and I enjoin all democracy loving Filipinos to go for clean and waste-free elections,” he added.

Com. Sarmiento likewise offered his solidarity with the green advocacy. "I support this well-timed initiative by the EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation to enrich the exercise of our right of suffrage by instilling our collective responsibility to the environment, and I urge all election stakeholders to heed the call for cleaner and greener elections," he said.

For her part, Cathy Untalan, Executive Director of the Miss Earth Foundation, said: “At this time of global ‘environmental’ crisis, we need to discern the leaders who will lead us to sustainability. Environment should be one of their top priorities for our beloved country.”

“This love for the Earth should not only be seen after they are elected into office but even during the campaign period. Our leaders owe it to the people to take extra measures for a cleaner, safer environment,” she emphasized.

Following the launch, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation will reach out to all concerned parties, groups and personalities to ensure broad support for the green 2010 advocacy.

“We will forge links with all major election stakeholders, including the presidential candidates, and obtain their unity with our non-partisan advocacy that is solely in service of Mother Earth,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We also hope to raise and promote our green agenda at the proposed national summit of citizens’ groups working for clean, honest and credible elections, which we support,” Panaligan added.

Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, who chairs both the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), last Monday suggested a “national summit” of groups seeking reforms in the nation’s electoral system.

The groups will circulate widely the “10-Point Guidelines for Political Parties, Party List Groups, Candidates and Other Election Stakeholders on Preventing and Reducing Campaign Waste and Pollution in the 2010 Polls,” and secure pledges of support from concerned entities and individuals.

Through the unity of all election stakeholders, the groups look forward to “greener” polls that will reduce wasteful consumption of resources and minimize the creation of garbage, greenhouse gases, persistent organic pollutants and other contaminants that are bad to health and the environment.

12 May 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Phase Out of Lead in Paints

Quezon City. After eliminating lead in gasoline sold in all service stations throughout the country, a waste and pollution watchdog now wants the government to focus its energy in phasing out lead in paints.

The EcoWaste Coalition proposed a “national partnership” to phase out leaded paints after 19 of the 25 assorted paint samples that the group sent to India as part of an international investigation on lead in paints showed high concentrations of lead.

The group has partnered with India-based Toxics Link and US-based International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) to find out the lead concentrations in major paint brands available in 10 developing countries, including the Philippines.

Test results confirmed that leaded paints are still being produced and sold in countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, exposing children and communities to this toxic substance.

Citing data from the newly-released report “Global Study to Determine Lead in New Decorative Paints in 10 Countries,” the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that out of the 25 household paint samples from the Philippines, 10 samples had lead concentrations higher than 90 ppm while nine samples had lead concentrations higher than 600 ppm.

Countries across Europe and North America have imposed bans and controls to eliminate lead in paints, with the US recently revising the maximum allowable concentration of lead in new paints from 600 ppm to 90 ppm.

Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, provided interesting details of the test results of paint samples that the group bought from paint stores located in Makati City and Quezon City in December 2008 and subsequently sent via air freight to New Delhi for testing in an accredited laboratory:

- - -Oil-based enamel paint samples contain high concentrations of lead with average lead concentration at 28,353.6 ppm.

- - - Water-based latex paint samples have low concentration of lead with no sample higher than 90 ppm.

- - - The highest lead concentration found is 189,163.5 ppm for an orange quick drying enamel paint, and the lowest at 0.6 ppm for three latex type paints.

“The test results should provoke honest-to-goodness action to inform the public about the hazards posed by lead in paints and the urgency of replacing this toxic metal with safer substitutes,” Panaligan said.

Lead, a heavy metal, is a known neurotoxicant that has been blamed for reduced intelligence quotients, developmental delays, speech and language problems and other health issues, especially in growing children.

“Our country has succeeded in phasing out lead in automotive fuels. It is high time now that we initiate a new national partnership involving the government, the paint industry, public interest groups and the consumers to enforce a mandatory national regulation for the removal of lead in paints,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s proposal follows IPEN’s initiative for a global partnership to eliminate lead in paints at the ongoing conference in Geneva to review the progress of implementing the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

The movement for lead-free paints has been gaining grounds with the Group of Eight (G8) environment ministers, meeting last April in Italy, agreeing to promote “the rapid phase out of lead in paint” to protect children’s health.

A new fact sheet on lead published by the EcoWaste Coalition stressed the importance of taking precautionary measures to prevent or reduce exposure to this toxic chemical. Five of these measures are:

a. Do not give children toys, childcare articles and school supplies containing lead or lead-based paint.

b. Ask your favorite toy shop or book store to offer only safe and toxics-free products.

c. Watch out for recalled and banned toys from US and other countries that were pulled out due to high lead contents and other safety issues.

d. Choose lead-free paints.

e. If you suspect that lead-based paint was used on your house, have this covered by lead-free paint or wallpaper, and keep children away from peeling paint.

The EcoWaste Coalition called for phase out of lead in paints in conjunction with the “Toxic Awareness and Action Week” that is being observed from May 9-15 by several groups to press for concerted response against chemical pollution.

11 May 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Seeks Ban on Sale of Cyanide-Containing Jewelry Cleaners

Quezon City. The wave of chemical poisonings and deaths due to accidental or intentional intake of silver jewelry cleaners prompted a chemical safety group to press the government to ban its sale.

“Cyanide-bearing silver jewelry cleaners have become a modern day scourge, inflicting lethal harm to kids and adults who accidentally ingest the instant kill solution or drink it on purpose to commit suicide,” retired nurse Elsie Brandes-De Veyra of the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“The rising incidents of silver polish poisoning should compel the authorities into reviewing existing policy on cyanide and imposing an immediate ban on the sale of toxic cleaners in jewelry shops,” she added.

“We urge the authorities to keep the hazardous products off the shelves and cut the supply chain to zero in the interest of public health and safety,” De Veyra pleaded.

Citing information received from the University of the Philippines - National Poison Management and Poison Control Center (UP-NPMCC), the EcoWaste Coalition noted that silver jewelry cleaning agents ranked fourth in 2008 as the most commonly ingested chemical poison. It is the number three most common poison swallowed by children.

Between January to April 2009, the UP-NMPCC handled 99 cases of silver cleaner poisonings, involving 11 accidental and 88 non-accidental poisonings that resulted to the untimely deaths of six victims - all less than 19 years of age.

On Sunday, May 10, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers went to 10 jewelry shops in Quiapo and Divisoria to see how easy one can purchase silver jewelry cleaners, and were in fact able to buy the stuff over the counter in eight of the shops.

The silver cleaners, with prices ranging from 20 to 60 pesos, were poorly labeled with zero information that will warn consumers about the toxic contents such as cyanide and thiourea.

Cyanide and cyanide compounds are highly toxic to humans and aquatic life even at low concentrations, prompting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to issue a Chemical Control Order (CCO) as early as 1997 to control their use and dispersion into the environment.

Thiourea is a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen. It is also a suspected toxicant that may cause irreversible effects, affect fertility, and set off allergic skin reaction and other health issues.

To prevent chemical poisoning due to accidental or intentional consumption, the EcoWaste Coalition called on the DENR, the Department of Health and other concerned agencies, including the Philippine National Police, to:

1. Ban the sale of cyanide-containing silver jewelry agents;
2. Confiscate cyanide-tainted stocks and prosecute erring vendors;
3. Promote non-toxic alternatives to cleaning jewelry

“We also call on the DENR and the DOH to jointly initiate a participatory review on how the CCO for cyanide is being implemented with the aim of strengthening the necessary prohibitions, limitations or restrictions in line with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM),” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

SAICM, which the Philippines and other governments adopted in 2006, is a global policy and strategy to safeguard human and ecological health from the damaging effects of toxic substances, including chemicals in products and wastes.

The group's latest plea for chemical safety action coincides with the “Toxic Awareness and Action Week” that is being observed from May 9-15 by several groups, including Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace and Health Care Without Harm.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846

09 May 2009

RP’s breakthrough project on PCBs garners support

Quezon City. Environmental and chemical safety advocacy groups expressed support for a breakthrough multistakeholders initiative that will rid the country of some highly toxic industrial chemicals

The Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm and Mother Earth Foundation welcomed the United Nations-backed effort to safely address the country’s stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a group of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), using a non-combustion approach.

The groups issued the statement as they mark the "Toxic Awareness and Action Week" from May 9-15, which is being observed in conjunction with the meetings of the International Conference on Chemicals Management and the International Maritime Organization.

Dubbed as the “Non-Com POPs Project,” this will assist the Philippines in meeting the goals of the Chemical Control Order for PCBs issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) by ensuring the safe handling and environmentally sound storage and destruction of PCBs. The CCO sets a phase out target for PCBs by 2014.

The project will also comply with the requirements of the Stockholm Convention on the destruction of POPs that will not result to the formation and release of dioxins and furans to the air, water and soil.

It will further help the Philippines implement certain provisions under the Global Plan of Action of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

“The ‘Non-Com POPs Project’ will help our nation in dealing with PCBs in a manner that will not cause any further toxic harm to our people and the ecosystems. We commend the public-private partnership that is working doubly hard to make this happen,” said Rey Palacio of the EcoWaste Coalition.

A general assembly in the host community in Barangay Batangas Dos, Mariveles, Bataan will take place today, May 9, to assure the populace of the safety and ecological soundness of the project and to strengthen community ownership and participation in the pioneering project.

The “Non-Com POPs Project” has earlier elicited the support of Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment, who said that “the non-combustion treatment of our stockpiled PCBs is a strategic milestone in our quest to rid our nation of toxic health and environmental contaminants.”

“Let a PCBs-free Philippines be our shared gift to all Filipino children and youth of this generation and next. I commend the project participants from the public and private sectors, particularly the NGOs promoting the chemical safety agenda,” she said in a statement.

The “Non-Com POPs Project” is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as the implementing agency, the DENR – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) as the national executing agency and the Philippine National Oil Company – Alternative Fuels Corporation (PAFC) as the operating entity.

The other project partners include Meralco, National Grid Corp. and the National Power Corp. from the private sector and the concerned non-government organizations from the public sector.

As the preparation for the “Non-Com POPs Project” goes in full swing, the public interest groups called on the government to continue with the effort to complete the national inventory of PCBs and ensure their safe management and ultimate destruction in the soon-to-be launched facility.

PCBs are thin, clear to pale-yellow liquids generally used as dielectric fluids in old electrical transformers and capacitors. They persist in the environment for very long time, enter the food chain and accumulate in human and animal tissues.

Considered as possible carcinogen, PCBs, according to three new studies, alter brain development and produce neurobehavioral problems in children, among other health problems associated with the chemicals.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846

05 May 2009

“Citizens’ Report” Bewails Slow Action vs. Toxic Chemicals

Quezon City. As delegates from governments, industry associations and public interest groups start to converge in Geneva for the second International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2), a global coalition today released a “Citizens’ Report” calling for robust and faster action towards chemical safety.

The Philippines will join the rest of the world in reviewing the implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global policy and strategy adopted in 2006 to protect human and ecological health from the harmful effects of toxic substances, including chemicals in products and wastes.

The International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) prepared the “Citizens’ Report” with inputs from numerous public interest groups worldwide, including local groups such as Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm and Pesticide Action Network-Philippines.

While admitting some progress in promoting chemical safety, the “Citizens’ Report” lamented that “the pace has been slow and uneven, and it does not appear that the global community is yet on track to achieve SAICM’s 2020 objective.”

When SAICM was adopted, the international community pledged to achieve “the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.”

SAICM’s implementation in the Philippines and Southeast Asia “has been slow and not commensurate with the intensity of chemical hazards that the people, particularly the most vulnerable groups and communities, face daily,” the “Citizens’ Report” said.

The “Citizens’ Report” particularly noted the insufficient commitment of governments to basic principles such as the precautionary principle, substitution principle, polluter pays principle, no data, no market and the public right to know.

“There are ongoing efforts to address chemical safety issues. But, we find these patchy and inadequate to fully safeguard our citizens and ecosystems from chemical trespassing and pollution. Much more has to be done to ensure a toxics-free future for our country and people,” said Manny Calonzo, IPEN co-hub for Southeast Asia.

"Good SAICM implementation will promote a new chemicals control policy anchored on the precautionary principle and other vital elements to uphold public health, environmental justice and democracy," stated Dr. Romy Quijano, President of Pesticide Action Network-Philippines.

The groups welcomed recent moves by the Philippines to get rid of the country’s stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyls using a non-combustion method, the phaseout mercury-containing thermometers and blood pressure devices in all hospitals by 2010, and the restriction or ban on some highly toxic pesticides such as endosulfan, azinphos-ethyl, methyl parathion, monocrotophos and triphenyltins.

However, the groups noted that the government has yet to fully act on a long list of chemicals of highest concern, including restricting, phasing out or banning chemicals that are persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or those that adversely affect the reproductive, immune, endocrine or nervous systems, and toxic metals such as lead and mercury.

“We need to draw up and implement cautious policies covering the full spectrum of substances common in modern lives and provide complete control, regulation and surveillance of these chemicals during their entire life cycle,” the groups said.

The Southeast Asia section of the “Citizens’ Report” listed several gaps in the implementation of SAICM in the Philippines and the region, pointing to the lack of holistic policy and program to promote alternatives to toxic processes, technologies and products such as toxic reduction at source, clean production, extended producer responsibility, green chemistry, ecological agriculture and zero waste.

Other glaring gaps include the low public awareness on chemical issues, inadequate public input and participation in chemical policy development, and lack of accessible information about chemicals, including their impacts on human and ecological health, particularly on developing fetuses, children, women and workers in the agricultural, industrial and waste sectors.

In releasing the “Citizens’ Report,” the groups called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the national focal point for SAICM, to proactively put chemical safety on top of the national agenda and budget in close partnership with other government institutions and the public and private sectors.

The “Citizens’ Report” is being released just prior to ICCM2 that will take place in Geneva, Switzerland from May 11 to 15, 2009. The report is available online at www.ipen.org/campaign

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846

02 May 2009

Abucay, Bataan Launches First Community Recycling Center

Bataan Governor Enrique Garcia Jr. leads the inauguration last April 29 of the first materials recovery facility (MRF) in the municipality of Abucay located in Barangay Salian. Joiing the ceremonial ribbon cutting are (from left) Barangay Captain Thomas Baino Jr., Gov. Garcia, Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition, Dr. Vivian Eustaquio of the Office of Sen. Pia Cayetano and Mercy Sumilang of the Sharing Hands for the Rehabilitation of the Environment, Inc. MRFs, also known as ecology centers, are meant to energize community-driven waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting efforts to render pollutive open dumping a thing of the past. (Rey Palacio)

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846