30 July 2009

Sec. Atienza Urged to Sign Policy Banning Single Use Plastic Bags

Quezon City. Two environmental organizations today urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to back a resolution by the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) that seeks to save the oceans from plastic pollution.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, and the Conserve and Protect Oceans Foundation (CAPOceans), a marine rehabilitation and protection group, jointly pleaded for the passage of a policy resolution banning thin film single use plastic bags.

Resolution No. 30, Series of 2009, if signed by DENR Sec. and NSWMC Chair Jose Atienza, Jr., will ban the manufacture, sale, distribution and use of thin film single use plastic bags, one of the most littered garbage that is stifling marine animals and defacing coastal areas across the globe.

The resolution stems from the citizens’ petition presented to the DENR and the NSWMC last June 16 by the EcoWaste Coalition and over 100 groups urging the authorities to heed the call by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to phase out or ban “thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life.”

According to the draft resolution, “there is a need to phase out and ban the production of thin film single use plastic bags due to its rampant littering to oceans, beaches and other water bodies, which acutely endanger the marine ecosystems and the lives of the communities that depend on marine resources.”

However, DENR Asst. Sec. and NSWMC Executive Director Gerardo Calderon, in a letter faxed to the EcoWaste Coalition on July 28, explained that the approval of the said resolution has to be deferred “to further assess the necessity and its implications on the plastic industry.”

“We urge Sec. Atienza to uphold the public interest and back the policy resolution that could dramatically reduce the huge quantities of plastic discards being disposed in dumpsites and in water bodies. Let the ban on plastic bags be his legacy as environmental chief,” said “balik-bayong” advocate Roy Alvarez of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The policy, if genuinely enforced, may even lead to a trailblazing shift to clean production and to ecologically-sound consumption values and choices,” he added.

CAPOceans, which is based out of Calatagan, Batangas, expressed hope that Sec. Atienza will act swiftly on the pending policy on plastic bags as this will protect the aquatic wildlife.

“We hope that Sec. Atienza will see the policy as an essential tool to stop the destructive disposal at sea or on open land of discarded plastic bags and other garbage. No coral reef, no sea turtle, no dolphin is disposable. We all need to take action to protect the marine ecosystems from plastic pollution,” said Jessie de los Reyes, Project Coordinator, CAPOceans.

The petition to ban plastic bags following the call by Dr. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, has attracted broad support from concerned local groups and individuals.

Among the more than 100 petitioners who have joined the EcoWaste Coalition in asking the DENR and the NSWMC to ban plastic bags were “non-trapo” presidential candidates Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, John Carlos de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran Party) and Nicanor Perlas (recipient of “Right Livelihood Award”), senatorial aspirant Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel (Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party), Danton Remoto (Ang Ladlad Party) and Manila Councilor Numero “Uno” Lim (author of a proposed city ordinance on plastic bags).

Atty. Alex Lacson (author of bestseller “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country”), film actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr., several priests and faith-based ecology ministries also signed the petition.

28 July 2009

Government to ban aerial spraying as environmentalists demand protection of human rights vs business interest

Quezon City. In a meeting of high level government officials last week, the Department of Health (DOH)-led Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health (IACEH) has included in its draft policy paper on pesticides the banning of aerial spraying as an agricultural practice.

This is partly because environmental groups like the Eco Waste Coalition, Greenpeace, National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS) and Davao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) earlier demanded from IACEH to issue the ban after government public health experts have established in a study the dangerous levels of health and environmental effects of the said practice by banana growers.

IACEH, which also acted on the recommendation of the National Poison Management and Control Center, University of the Philippines-Manila (UP-NPMCC) on its 2006 study “Health and Environmental Assessment of Sitio Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur”, noted that there are no guidelines on techniques and procedures on aerial spraying, environmental and health monitoring as well as designation of buffer zones.

The ban forms part of the DOH short term action after observing policy gaps in pesticide use, among which, is the absence of a regulation on aerial spraying in agricultural activities, particularly the absence of precautionary measures and risk assessment and reduction on the pervasive use of agrochemicals.

The body is also looking into the compliance of agricultural plantation to social responsibility to the community, environmental impact assessment and their occupational health program for agricultural workers, notwithstanding government’s admission of its inability to fully monitor and police the practice with only three personnel for the entire region.

“To be in business is not a matter of right but a privilege. In the discourse about aerial spraying of pesticides, wherein a clear-cut policy is absent ever since and severe public health and environment hazards are clearly established and verifiable, that privilege is mandatorily prevailed upon by the most supreme right – the right to life of affected citizens,” Rene D. Pineda, Jr., a member of the Ecowaste Coalition and head of NTFAAS, told officials in the meeting.

Pineda added that it becomes mandatory for government to immediately stop the practice owing to its mandated duty to protect that right or face the consequences of violating their mandates.

“Banning aerial spraying fits well with the DOH’s ‘National Objectives for Health 2005-2010’ and should be formalized with immediate effect to stop the chemical fumigation of people without their consent,” Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited Chapter 4 on “Reducing the Burden of Disease” of the “National Objectives for Health,” which lists the need to “protect individuals, families, workers and communities from exposure to occupational and environmental hazards, disease agents or stressors” as one of the government’s strategic thrusts for 2005-2010.

Company representatives presented their defense before the IACEH that aerial spraying is the most cost-effective method of application against Black Sigatoka approved by the Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority and added that the use of technologically advanced tools has increased accuracy and margin of safety vis-à-vis off-target spray. Sigatoka is disease of the Cavendish banana variety that manifests as a yellowish fungus in the leaves.

Dismissing their claim, Cecilia Moran, a farmer and MAAS president representing to the said meeting the affected villagers from Davao City, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley said: “Hindi kami Sigatoka, kaya dapat hindi kami nauulanan ng spray ninyo. Hindi naman namin sinasabi na itigil na ninyo ang business nyo kasi may alternative pa naman kayo tulad ng ibang mga asensadong plantations na ground spraying lang. Samantalang kami wala ng magagawa kung hindi magdusa at maghintay sa sarili naming lupa ng kamatayan dahil sa aerial spray.”

Villaverde also pointed out that since DOH is concerned with people's health, they would need studies from the plantation group that will prove that their practices are safe to people's health.

Toxicologist and medical doctor Lynn Crisanta Panganiban of the UP-NPMCC presented the various pesticide poisoning studies during the meeting. The ban aerial spraying issue was later referred to IACEH sub-sector on toxic substances and hazardous waste.

They are expected to submit their final recommendation for action within five days.

27 July 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Asks PGMA to Declare “War” against Dumpsites in Her SONA

Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network promoting Zero Waste, has called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare an all out war against 1,235 illegal dumpsites during her State of the Nation Address (SONA) today.

The waste and pollution watchdog said such a declaration would signify the President’s resolve to rectify the most brazen breach of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which bans the open dumping of trash.

“Even if it is notoriously behind schedule, any swift and resolute action by the chief executive to stop the dumpsites from further damaging the environment will be utterly good for human and ecological health,” Romy Hidalgo, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“It’s high time for President Arroyo to crack the whip on coddlers and operators of illegal dumpsites and let environmental health and justice win through if she wants to leave a legacy of having shut down these major pollution sources,” he stated.

While R.A. 9003 requires open dumpsites to seize operations in February 2004 and controlled dumpsites in February 2006, the second quarter data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) show 838 open and 397 controlled dumpsites still in operation all over the country.

“Their continued operation, in clear defiance of the law, is made worst by the unhurried establishment of barangay-based ecology centers or materials recovery facilities (MRFs) that are meant to help in building clean and vibrant communities that recycle and care for Mother Earth,” Hidalgo added.

The latest available data from the NSWMC show that there are only 5,070 MRFs servicing 5,508 barangays out of the country’s 42,000 barangays.

For his part actor Roy Alvarez, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee, stressed the importance of having the dumpsites not only closed, but also adequately monitored and decontaminated.

“Dumpsites are ticking toxic time bombs that require honest-to-goodness rehabilitation to reduce the risks of chemical pollution that could affect the air, water and soil quality and safety and endanger public health,” Alvarez said.

At last week’s “State of the Nature Address” (or Green SONA) sponsored by Green Convergence, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented “the myopic focus on waste disposal to the exclusion of Zero Waste and toxics reduction at source,” even as the group pushed “for policy and budget shift from waste disposal to comprehensive national program on waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting.”

In addition to the immediate closure, clean up and rehabilitation of all dumpsites, the EcoWaste Coalition identified key action proposals that the citizenry, government and industry should pursue to tackle the waste and toxic woes facing the country.

Some of these action points include using clean production and extended producer responsibility as a framework to achieve closed-loop, non-toxic economy; phasing out single-use plastic bags and packaging materials with low or non-existent recycling rates; adopting and funding a National Ecological Solid Waste Management System anchored on waste prevention, volume and toxicity elimination or reduction, segregation at source, reuse, recycling and composting, and not on costly and polluting landfills and incinerators.

The group also proposed the development of a comprehensive national chemical safety policy and program that will protect the people and the ecosystems from the adverse effects of toxic chemicals, including materials substitution, toxics use elimination or reduction and non-incineration approaches for managing toxic, hazardous and infectious wastes.

The EcoWaste Coalition further urged the authorities to shut down existing incinerators and to cease and desist from allowing the combustion of municipal, healthcare and industrial discards as alternative fuels in cement kilns.

21 July 2009

Cebu Government Urged to Drop Plan for Coal Ash Dumpsite

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog slammed a controversial plan by the provincial government of Cebu to set up a dumpsite by the beach for coal combustion waste or what is commonly known as coal ash.

In a letter faxed to the offices of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and Vice-Gov. Gregorio Sanchez, Jr., the EcoWaste Coalition expressed its “profound objection” against the planned dumping of coal ash at the government-owned Balili Beach Resort in Naga City (Cebu).

The dumpsite is intended for the tons of coal combustion waste from the expanded 200-megawatt coal power plant of the Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) in Naga City that is set to operate by February 2011. KEPCO will pay US$1 million to the provincial government for the permit to dump.

The letter from the Quezon City-based environmental alliance against chemical contamination bolsters the opposition lodged by Cebu law faculty Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos and Atty. Benjamin Cabrido who have earlier scored the officials for engaging in the business of coal ash dumping.

“In the greater interest of human and ecological health, we urge the government of Cebu to apply the precautionary principle, reconsider its coal ash deal with KEPCO, and prevent a potential chemical crisis that might even cost beyond the US$1 million promised by the company,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste, wrote in his letter.

“We urge the government of Cebu to learn from the unfolding health and environmental problems in US due to the toxic releases from coal combustion waste ponds, pits, dumpsites and landfills, some of which have been declared as Superfund sites or toxic waste sites requiring very
costly cleanups,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that coal combustion byproducts are not exactly benign waste as these can contain dangerous levels of harmful chemicals associated with cancer and non-cancer risks such as arsenic, boron, cadmium, cobalt, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nitrates/nitrites, and selenium.

The group cited a Greenpeace Southeast Asia study of ash samples from the coal-fired power plant of the National Power Corp. in Calaca, Batangas that tested positive with mercury, a toxic metal, which prompted then Senator Sergio Osmeña to describe the detection of mercury in the coal ash as “an environmental disaster which I would not wish on anyone.”

In their letter to the Cebu officials, the EcoWaste Coalition questioned the capability of the provincial and city authorities to monitor, regulate and mitigate the adverse effects of coal ash dumping to ensure the long-term health and safety of the Cebuanos, the water supplies and the
marine resources.

Citing a report released in March 2009 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that the disposal of coal ash, especially in unlined ponds, results in alarmingly high risks of cancer and diseases of the heart, lung, liver, stomach and other organs
and can seriously harm aquatic ecosystems and wildlife near disposal sites.

In the same report, the EPA warned that contamination from coal ash ponds will not peak until about 78 to 105 years after waste is dumped, while peak exposure from landfills may occur after even longer periods of time.

According to the US-based advocacy groups Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, “the EPA’s risk assessment clearly establishes that unlined coal ash disposal sites—wet and dry—are hazardous to human health and the environment, posing unacceptably high cancer and noncancer risks to those living nearby and poisoning aquatic life of adjacent water bodies with bioaccumulative poisons.”

In view of the climate crisis, the EcoWaste Coalition furtJustify Fullher urged Gov. Garcia and the provincial leaders “to walk away from fossil fuels and take decisive steps to implement renewable energy options in light of the changing climate.”

“You owe it to all Cebuanos and to all of us, Filipinos, to cut the toxic emissions from the free-for-all combustion of fossil fuels like coal that is already inflicting harm to our people and to our fragile nation and planet,” the Coalition stressed.

13 July 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Welcomes Effort to Curb Toluene Sniffing Addiction

Quezon City. A non-government organization pursuing a chemical safety agenda has commended the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for its latest move to curb the use of toluene-based contact cement (TBCC) or what many simply call as “rugby.”

PDEA on Thursday announced a ban on the over-the-counter sale of TBCC that does not contain at least five percent mustard oil, an additive that will make “rugby” unattractive to sniffing addicts because of the obnoxious smell.

“As a group dedicated to public health and safety, we find PDEA’s decision laudable as added mustard oil will make toluene-based inhalants unappealing to users,” retired nurse Elsie Brandes-De Veyra of the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

“It pains us to see our young people, especially out-of-school children and youth, getting addicted to harmful substances like TBCC because of easy access to this toxic adhesive,” she lamented.

“We know that repeated exposure to toluene can lead to irreversible damage to the brain and the central nervous system,” De Veyra said.

“To further eliminate sniffing as a health and social issue, we further hope that the government through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will issue a chemical control order for toluene and promote toluene-free consumer adhesives that will be less injurious if misused,” she suggested.

Toluene, a colorless, flammable and toxic liquid obtained from coal tar or petroleum, is included in Table II of the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

“Considering its extremely damaging effect to the health of child and youth users, we urge the government to consider scaling up the campaign versus TBCC with industry, civil society and community support,” De Veyra appealed.

According to the Dangerous Drugs Board, TBCC is one of the top three substances among drug abusers. A significant number of users belong to the youth group, majority of whom are children.

“We also hope that the government, working hand in hand with the churches, charities and civic groups, will extend compassionate assistance to TBCC-users to help them get rid of the toxic habit, providing them with counseling, rehabilitation, educational and skills-building opportunities,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

10 July 2009

EcoGroups Reiterate Call to Close Payatas Dump Nine Years After Disaster

QUEZON CITY - Residents and ecogroups reiterate their call for the local government of Quezon City to implement the ecowaste management law by closing down the illegal Payatas dumpsite as communities commemorate the ninth year of the garbage slide disaster that buried and killed a still undetermined number of people.

"Every year, they keep on promising us that they will close the Payatas dump but they have not kept their promise," said Nita Panoy, a member of Bangon Kalikasan.

Aling Nita and her family lived beside the Payatas dump for more than twenty years and survived the horrific July 10 garbage disaster that buried and killed an estimate of more than thousand residents and transients and only 300 bodies were retrieved.

"We are appealing to Mayor Sonny Belmonte to please close the Payatas dump. Instead of a toxic environment, he should give us proper housing, health care and clean and alternative livelihood,” said Panoy.

The Payatas dump receives garbage from Quezon City. It is one of the biggest dumpsites in the country. Under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003, the Payatas dump should have been closed since 2006.

"Instead of closing the dump as mandated, the Quezon City government is even expanding the dumpsite. They are again dumping mixed waste on the same garbage hill that collapsed nine years ago. Communities below the dump again fear for their safety especially now that we are enduring harsh rains and typhoons," said Panoy.

Panoy said that they witnessed the demolition of hundreds of houses around the dump to clear the area for expansion of the dumpsite.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, Payatas dump releases huge amounts of methane and other toxic emissions to the environment that further aggravate the already worsening climate and relentlessly prey on the health of the people, even those in other communities beyond Payatas.

Children and pregnant women living around the dump are vulnerable to the toxic fumes that trigger and cause the development of respiratory complications, hormone disruption and other ailments.

"The communities around Payatas have suffered enough. Let us not wait for another disaster,” said Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition.

A study of the Asian Development Bank in 2004 says that Payatas dump releases leachate into the groundwater and river system an amount of 2 liters per second or 63 million liters per year. Also, Greenpeace in a 1999 study found out that the leachate or "garbage juice" from the Payatas dump contains elevated levels of heavy metals such as lead, chromium, copper, and zinc.

Payatas dump is adjacent to La Mesa Watershed, a drinking source of Metro Manila, and tributaries of Marikina River that flow directly to the Laguna Lake.

The national government and private entities are now undertaking various housing projects around the dump. Ecogroups believe that it is imperative to close the dump to ensure the safety and health of the people and the protection of the environment.

09 July 2009

Chemical Safety Advocates Laud DENR’s Move to Seize and Ban Deadly Silver Jewelry Cleaners

Quezon City. Chemical safety advocates lauded the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for taking decisive action that will hopefully make cyanide poisoning from silver jewelry cleaners a thing of the past.

“We welcome the assurance made by the DENR that the toxic concoction for cleaning silver jewelry will no longer be sold in the market and cause lethal harm to consumers and the ecosystems. We will keep a tight watch on its enforcement to protect human and ecological health,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“This should send a clear signal to manufacturers and retailers to be mindful of the toxic chemical contents of their products and ensure that only safe goods are sold and consumed by the public,” he added.

For her part, Dr. Lynn Panganiban, head of the University of the Philippines – National Poison Management and Control Center (UP-NPMCC), said: “We commend the EMB for taking action against the cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaners. However, the strength of the law is measured by the effectiveness of its implementation.”

In a letter sent today to the EcoWaste Coalition, Environmental Management Bureau Director Julian Amador informed the waste and pollution watchdog that the DENR has instructed “the confiscation of these jewelry cleaners” in line with DENR Administrative Order No. 1997-39, or the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Cyanide and Cyanide Compounds, which describes cyanide as “highly toxic to humans and aquatic life even at low concentrations.”

“The risk that these jewelry cleaners containing cyanide pose to public health is extremely high, as evident in the reported casualties, thus its ban for commercial use will be strictly enforced,” Amador said in his letter to the EcoWaste Coalition.

Amador pointed out that the toxic cleaning solutions “have no proper labeling necessary for items containing regulated hazardous substances” like cyanide.

It will be recalled that the EcoWaste Coalition wrote to the DENR on May 19 this year and again on May 20 and June 30 to appeal for action to stop, once and for all, the rising incidence of chemical poisoning due to accidental or intentional ingestion of cyanide-laced silver cleaning liquids.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. had earlier joined the EcoWaste Coalition in pushing for an outright ban on silver jewelry cleaners, the ingestion of which has become the number one form of suicide in CAMANAVA. This highly populated district of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela has the most number of suicide incidents in Metro Manila.

In response to the EcoWaste Coalition’s call for action, the EMB bought samples of silver jewelry cleaners and had them tested for cyanide. Laboratory analysis, according to the EMB, showed “high content of cyanide which is fatal to humans when ingested.”

Amador informed the Coalition that, in a preventive move, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza has instructed the Environmental Law Enforcement Task Force to conduct surveillance of silver jewelry cleaners being sold in jewelry stores, malls, tiangge (flea market) and sidewalks.

In 2008, the UP-NPMCC ranked silver jewelry cleaning agents as the fourth most commonly ingested chemical poison, and the third most common toxin 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 poisoning that resulted in the untimely death of six victims - all less than 19 years of age.

On May 15 and June 25 2009, the EcoWaste Coalition monitored two more suicide cases involving the intake of silver jewelry cleaners by a 20-year-old female university graduate, and by a male amateur basketball referee, 25, both from Tondo, Manila.

“The ban on cyanide-laden silver jewelry cleaners, we hope, will usher a movement for the elimination of harmful chemicals in consumer products and lead to more collaborative action to advance the right of consumers to chemical safety,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

06 July 2009

Bishop Iñiguez and EcoWaste Coalition Seek Ban on Deadly Silver Jewelry Cleaners

Quezon City. A Catholic Church leader and a public interest group campaigning for chemical safety urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to impose an outright ban on cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaning agents.

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. and the EcoWaste Coalition aired their shared plea after learning about two new cases of suicidal ingestion of silver jewelry cleaners involving a 20-year old woman and a 25-year old man, both from Tondo, Manila.

“The suicidal intake of cyanide-bearing silver jewelry cleaners is an act of violence against oneself. We are all made in God’s image and likeness, so we must strive to glorify Him in our bodies and protect, not harm, ourselves from health-damaging substances like cyanide.,” stated Bishop Iñiguez who heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“I therefore join the call of the EcoWaste Coalition to ban poisonous silver jewelry cleaners as I remind those facing hardships in life not to despair, but to find hope and love in our living faith,” the Bishop of Caloocan pointed out.

The Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela (CAMANAVA) area, according to police sources, has the most number of suicide incidents in Metro Manila with 68 suicide cases in 2008 alone. Driven by depression and poverty, CAMANAVA suicide victims reportedly drank silver jewelry cleaning liquids, hanged or shot themselves.

“Cyanide is a very toxic substance that can cause lethal harm if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin. To avoid injuries and deaths due to accidental or deliberate poisoning, we urge the government to immediately ban this deadly poison,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“We likewise call on the authorities to popularize eco-friendly and non-toxic ways of cleaning silver jewelry to prevent and reduce health and environmental risks,” he added.

In lieu of cyanide-bearing cleaning solutions, the EcoWaste Coalition has identified toothpaste, baking soda, liquid dish soap and mild detergents as safer substitutes that can remove stains and cleanse silver jewelry.

Banning cyanide-laden cleaners, the EcoWaste Coalition asserts, will promote the Filipino’s people right to health as well as advance the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global policy to protect human and ecological health from the damaging effects of toxic substances, including chemicals in products and wastes.

According to the Chemical Control Order (CCO) issued by the DENR in 1997, cyanide and cyanide compounds are highly toxic to humans and to aquatic life even at low concentrations.

The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says that exposure to high levels of cyanide harms the brain and heart, and may cause coma and death. Exposure to lower levels may result in breathing difficulties, heart pains, vomiting, blood changes, headaches, and enlargement of the thyroid gland.

Data provided by the University of the Philippines-National Poison Management and Control Center (UP-NPMCC) show silver jewelry cleaner landing fourth in 2008 in the top 10 most commonly ingested poisons. It ranks third in the list of most commonly ingested toxic substance by children.

From January to April 2009, the UPNPMCC assisted 99 victims of silver jewelry cleaner poisoning, including 52 children. The center also recorded six deaths, all below 19 years of age, due to accidental and intentional ingestion of toxic cleaning solutions.

03 July 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Groups Urge DENR to Halt High-Risk Projects within Marikina Watershed

San Mateo, Rizal. As the country observes Disaster Awareness Month this July, eco-groups Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition pressed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to immediately stop all land conversion and waste disposal activities within the Marikina Watershed.

“The massive land conversion of the Marikina Watershed and the mountains of Rizal is putting families in danger, especially those living near riverbanks and mountain slopes,” warned Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao “As the country is in the brink of more climatic disasters due to global warming, we are appealing to the DENR to act quickly and stop the further destruction of the environment,” Abinales added.

Buklod Tao, a community-based organization based in San Mateo, Rizal, asked Secretary Atienza to strengthen environmental management by integrating disaster prevention to enhance the protection of citizens living in high risk disaster areas like San Mateo.

A study conducted by the National Institute for Geological Studies of the University of the Philippines in 2000 reveals that the surrounding mountains of San Mateo are classified as Zone 1 or high risk for landslides and “mass wasting”.

The environmental constraint map of San Mateo’s comprehensive land use plan classifies 13 of the town’s 15 barangays as prone to flooding.

Buklod Tao complains that the mountains of Rizal have been leveled for years by powerful corporations engaged in housing projects and quarry operations.

“These corporations should be held liable for their environmental crimes as they forced out legal tenants and farming communities out of their lands, killed waterways, covered rivers with soil and boulders and cut down hundreds of trees for the sake of profit,” lamented Abinales.

For his part, Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition assailed the construction of a new “sanitary” landfill in San Mateo that could contaminate the water supply with leachate, the toxic “garbage juice” which forms within waste materials.

“The construction of the engineered dumpsite is an added environmental risk for San Mateo, which is already badly impacted by unrestrained housing and quarrying operations. We’re afraid that the leachate will ooze into the soil and into the groundwater,” Panaligan said.

“Aside from leachate migration, we are concerned about methane pollution and its effect to the climate crisis,” he added.

The Buklod Tao and EcoWaste Coalition are jointly urging the national and local authorities to make the protection of the Marikina Watershed from destructive and polluting activities a top priority.