29 October 2009

Environmentalists campaign for 'waste-free, toxic-free' Undas at Manila North Cemetery

Manila – In anticipation of the recurrent garbage woe that blights the cemeteries during the popular observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, the EcoWaste Coalition, Miss Earth Foundation and the Manila North Cemetery Administration appealed to the public to opt for a “waste-free, toxic-free” Undas.

In a simple program held at the gate of the Manila North Cemetery, the advocates for eco-friendly Undas introduced a waste monster aptly named “Dumpbuhala,” representing inconsiderate litterbugs who have been turning the cemeteries into dumpsites with their wasteful habits.

Wielding oversized red boxing gloves marked with the recycling symbol, members of the pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition along with Miss Earth Philippines 2009 Sandra Seifert, Miss Earth Philippines 2009 runner-up Alexis Go and Peter Tamondong of the Manila North Cemetery Administration threw knockout punches against “Dumpbuhala,” while others held placards that say “the cemetery is not a dumpsite.”

Data obtained from the Manila City Hall show that on November 1 to 5, 2008, some 180 trucks of garbage – approximately weighing 1,145 tons - were hauled from the Manila North, Manila South and Chinese Cemeteries.

“We have come here to remind the public that our beautiful tradition of Undas can exact a major toll on public health and the environment if we continue generating avoidable trash and pollution,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

“Given the threats of more injuries and fatalities due to changing climate patterns and more frequent calamities, we find it necessary for us to switch now to simple, climate-friendly and toxic-free lifestyle,” he added.

Cathy Untalan, Executive Director of Miss Earth Foundation, a partner group of the EcoWaste Coalition, expressed full support for a shift to sustainable lifestyle in order to clean up our surrounding and halt the further degradation of our environment.

“Let every occasion that comes our way be an opportunity to make green choices. Our beloved departed ones deserve our prayers and respect not trash. Let us honor them by not trashing the cemeteries and keeping them waste-free all the time,” she said.

Manila North Cemetery Administration Officer-In-Charge Peter Tamondong used the occasion to make a public appeal for a waste-free Undas.

“We request the full cooperation of the public in making the cemetery a clean and safe place to visit and pay homage to our departed ones. The cemetery management and staff can only do so much and we really need the people to help and be involved,” Tamondong said.

The groups distributed flyers enumerating 13 simple tips to guide the public in observing “Undas” minus the usual garbage and pollution that can turn the time-honored tradition into a dirty and unpleasant experience.

These 13 tips for a simple, climate-friendly and toxic-free commemoration of Undas are as follows.

1. Take public transportation or share a ride to the cemetery. Carpooling or taking a jeepney, bus or train can create carbon savings. Whenever applicable, walk or cycle to your destination.

2. Avoid idling your car to cut down on energy consumption and the ensuing greenhouse gas and other toxic emissions.

3. Pick clean-burning candles that do not give off black fumes or ash. Also, shun candles with metal wicks, which may contain harmful chemicals such as lead.

4. Light just enough candles to save on money and energy as well as to cut pollution. It’s the thought that counts, not the number of candles set alight and, definitely, not the dispersal of harmful by-products.

5. Offer locally-grown fresh flowers instead of imported ones that are not only costly, but also require tons of energy to get them flown to flower shops and to you.

6. Refrain from putting flowers in plastic wraps. Plastics eventually end up clogging waterways and causing floods, injuring and killing marine animals, and poisoning communities with hazardous chemicals when burned.

7. Desist from bringing or buying excessive amounts of food and beverage to the cemetery to cut on expenses and waste.

8. Bring your own water in a reusable jug. Discarded plastic bottles add up to the country’s garbage problem.

9. Pack everything you wish to bring to the cemetery in reusable bags and baskets in lieu of single-use plastic bags and containers. Instead of plastic disposables, better use banana leaves or containers that can be reused.

10. Throw all discards into the proper recycling bins and be conscious at all times that littering in the cemetery—as elsewhere—is a no-no.

11. Bring home all your discards for reusing or recycling. Give food leftovers to pet animals or turn into compost with other biodegradable waste, and reuse or recycle the non-biodegradable discards.

12. Keep the decibel level down. Refrain from creating deafening noise from loud radios, blaring music, sing-along and constant honking of horns. The occasion calls for solemnity and prayerful demeanor.

13. Offer prayers of gratitude and remembrance to your departed loved ones. Prayers are said to be the best way of thanking and honoring the people we value and love, and they cause neither garbage nor pollution.

Present at the EcoWaste Coalition's pre-Undas event were the representatives of EARTH UST, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Miss Earth Foundation, Sanib Lakas ng mga Aktibong may Taya sa Inang Kalikasan and Zero Waste Philippines.

27 October 2009

Environmental groups call for open and exhaustive probe on toxic pollution in Cavite

Quezon City / Silang, Cavite. Concerned groups working for environmental health and justice today urged the authorities to ensure an impartial and all-inclusive investigation of the toxic incidents that knocked down residents, including children, of Barangay Maguyam in Silang, Cavite on October 14 and 24.

The Cavite Green Coalition, which has 28 member groups in the province, together with the EcoWaste Coalition, which has over 85 members groups in the country, issued a joint statement after Silang Mayor Clarito Poblete ordered the Cleanway Technology Corporation (CTC), a hazardous and healthcare waste treatment facility, “to immediately cease and desist” from operating their plant located at Meridian Industrial Park II.

Responding to the “numerous complaints” received by his office, Mayor Poblete released on October 15 a cease and desist order (CDO) addressed to CTC President Crispino de Castro, Jr., which has yet to be enforced according to the groups.

A Task Force Cleanway has been formed to investigate the matter with members from the DENR-Region IV-A, Laguna Lake Development Authority, Silang Municipal Health Office, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) and the Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Office (PGENRO).

“Officials and residents of Barangay Maguyam for the last four years have been complaining against the repeated discharge of toxic fumes allegedly coming from the CTC plant. The last two incidents that victimized helpless adults and children alike only fired up the community opposition against the plant which they themselves would like to be shut down now,” said Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator, Cavite Green Coalition.

“We urge the Task Force Cleanway to get to the bottom of the toxic mess. Please ensure an open, impartial, exhaustive and credible investigation that will fully address the various complaints and demands lodged by community leaders and residents as well as by employees of other firms operating in Barangay Maguyam,” stated Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We also would like to emphasize that the burden of proof rests with CTC and not with the affected community members, and we expect the company to disclose details of their operations in line with their corporate social responsibility and ‘advocacy for green living’,” he added.

"This is a public health issue demanding immediate attention from local government and from municipal, provincial and national health officials. If there is a need for expertise from toxicologists and other specialists to know the scale of its impacts on the health of individuals and the community, the earlier this is provided, the better," said Merci Ferrer, Executive Director, Health Care Without Harm.

On October 14, some 31 residents of Barangay Maguyam, site of the CTC plant, were rushed to the nearby Pagamutang Bayan ng Carmona after falling ill purportedly due to noxious fumes discharged from the huge hazardous and healthcare waste treatment facility.

Few days later, on October 24, 27 residents were again brought to the same hospital for treatment after being exposed to toxic emissions that allegedly came from the 300 container drums of CTC.

Copies of the signed complaints obtained by the Cavite Green Coalition and the EcoWaste Coalition from Barangay Maguyam officials and residents indicate that a total of 2,737 individuals have formally complained against the toxic stench allegedly coming from the CTC.

Out of these, 1,752 were community residents, 96 were students of the Newlife Christian School of Cavite and 889 were employees of Chain Glass Enterprises, Inc., FTN Garments Corp., Lot’s A Pizza, Paramina Earth Technologies, Inc., Power Coat Mfg. Co., Taifini Copper and Conductors, Inc., Trendy Plastic Mfg., Inc., Yamashita Mold Philippines Corp., and Yushin Philippines.

CTC describes itself as “the no. 1 waste treatment facility and the first company in the Philippines to offer comprehensive and fully integrated hazardous and healthcare waste management solutions to industrial partners using internationally certified technology and an integrated hazardous waste management facility.”

According to the CTC website (www.cleanway.com.ph), the company accepts industrial wastes both under hazardous and non hazardous categories, including healthcare waste, waste water and domestic waste.

25 October 2009

Prelate and environmentalists jointly plea for greener Undas

Quezon City. With only a few days left before the massive movement of people to the cemeteries, a Catholic Church leader has teamed up with an environmental organization in asking the faithful to opt for a greener Undas.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. joined the EcoWaste Coalition in calling for a “simple, climate-friendly and toxic-free” celebration of the back-to-back All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on November 1 and 2.

“The environmental lessons from the recent storms should not be ignored as we carry on with our timeless tradition of remembering all the saints and our dear departed ones,” said Bishop Iñiguez, who is also the head of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“On the contrary, we should strive to observe these holy days with the health, safety and welfare of our people and the environment in mind,” he added.

“We owe it to all who perished from the calamities to reform the way we have been treating Mother Earth, ensuring that we hurt her no more with our wasteful habits and harmful practices,” Bishop Iñiguez stated.

“Let us remember those who died in the storms and vow to honor their memories by preserving and protecting our fragile environment to the best of our ability,” he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a network of over 85 public interest groups that traces its roots from a conference convened by Greenpeace and the CBCP-backed “Landfill Watch” in 2000, lauded Bishop Iñiguez for once again reminding the faithful to be environmentally-caring and responsible.

“Bishop Iñiguez is right in calling attention to ecological stewardship at this crucial time of relief, remedy and healing following the harrowing floods, landslides and dislocations,” commented Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The widely observed Undas offers a concrete opportunity for everyone to play a constructive role towards curbing crass consumerism that has sullied our beautiful tradition of honoring the dead,” he said.

“Our shared efforts to green our choices and practices - from sprucing up the tombs to the actual visit to the teeming cemeteries - can make this year’s Undas kinder to the environment,” he added.

Both Bishop Iñiguez and the EcoWaste Coalition favored an eco-friendly commemoration of Undas that will minimize waste and pollution, particularly at the cemeteries and the adjacent communities.

The Church leader and environmental watchdog believed that by keeping the observance of Undas austere, more faith-centered, and less wasteful and toxic will help in building citizens’ involvement and solidarity to combat climate change.

“We hope that our call for a simple, climate-friendly and toxic-free Undas will attract more supporters now that we know the folly of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ way of thinking that really has to go if we want to put an end to the trashing and poisoning of our planet,” Bishop Iñiguez and the EcoWaste Coalition said.

22 October 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Promotes Environmentally-Sound Management of Mercury Lamp Wastes

Quiapo, Manila. As governments meet in Bangkok to discuss the process and timetable of negotiating a global treaty to curb mercury pollution, health and environmental advocates gathered in busy Quiapo district to raise public awareness on the need to safely manage mercury lamp waste.

As part of their “Alertoxic Day,” members of the EcoWaste Coalition - donning eye-catching mock lamps as headgears - distributed leaflets to vendors and consumers along the streets of Carriedo, Evangelista, and Raon to inform and alert them on the dangers of dumping or burning mercury lamp waste.

While recognizing the climate benefits of energy efficient mercury-containing lamps, the EcoWaste Coalition warned that improper disposal of broken or used lamps can release mercury into the
biosphere and cause toxic pollution.

A brochure published by the group describes mercury, a highly toxic chemical, as a potent neurotoxicant that can cause adverse effects on the brain. Among other health issues, mercury can cause developmental deficits and delays among children.

“We know that cost-effective alternatives are not yet available for some mercury-containing products like fluorescent light bulbs. Sad to say, some 80% of busted lamps are disposed of as domestic wastes in dumpsites or landfills where they are precariously retrieved, buried or burned,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Government data on mercury-containing waste lamp disposal indicate that 80% or some 19,880,993 lamps are disposed yearly as domestic wastes. These are mostly linear fluorescent lamps, which can contain as much as 25 milligrams of mercury per unit.

“To reduce mercury releases from mercury lamp waste, we urge government agencies, manufacturers, distributors as well as institutional and household consumers to establish a system for
environmentally managing lamps at the end of their useful lives,” he added.

The absence of a clear-cut government policy on mercury lamp disposal has prompted the EcoWaste Coalition to improvise steps to guide consumers on ecological management of mercury lamp waste.

“We have drawn up a 10-point step-by-step procedures on managing mercury lamp waste in the hope of safeguarding our consumers against toxic mercury exposure,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

These practical steps for safely managing mercury lamp waste are:

1. Handle mercury lamp waste with extreme care as they can easily break. Do not play with discarded lamps or leave them lying around.

2. Do not throw mercury lamp waste into the regular waste bin.

3. Do not burn mercury lamp waste – as well as other types of discards.

4. Return discarded mercury lamp to its original corrugated box container or wrap it in used newspaper or paper bag, and attach a visible warning label into the item that says “Toxic: Mercury Lamp Waste.”

5. Put the properly wrapped and labeled item into a secured place for temporary storage.

6. For increased protection against lamp breakage and mercury exposure, store the discarded item in upright position into a tin or plastic container with cover for smaller compact fluorescent lamps or
a cupboard for linear lamps.

7. Mark the container where the lamp waste is stored with a readable warning “Toxic: Mercury Lamp Waste.”

8. Ensure that the place where the mercury lamp waste is kept is safe and out of children’s reach and away from elements and human traffic.

9. Contact mercury lamp manufacturers and/or distributors to check if they have a take-back program for their products after their useful lives, or suggest a take back program if they have none.

10. Press the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Solid Waste Management Commission and local government units to institute a collection program for mercury lamp waste, including drop-off points, for environmentally-sound storage.

In the interest of human and ecological health, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to expeditiously devise a policy on the environmentally-sound management of mercury lamp waste.

Such policy, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed, should strictly enforce the ban on dumping and burning of trash, particularly hazardous waste such as mercury lamp waste, that is already covered under existing laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Proposed Senate Resolution 1396 filed by Senator Manny Villar on October 7 echoed the EcoWaste Coalition’s advocacy for a comprehensive policy on the proper collection and disposal of mercury lamp waste “that will adequately protect our consumers from toxic harm.”

20 October 2009

Government Urged to Remove Endosulfan Out of the Country Now

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
Unit 330, Eagle Court, 26 Matalino St., QC
Phone/Fax: 4364733 E-Mail: mcalonzo@no-burn.org
Media Contacts: Dr. Romy Quijano -0922-8333531, Manny Calonzo-0922-8286343

Quezon City. Civil society groups pressed the government to ship out endosulfan back to its Israeli manufacturer after scientists agreed last week that the highly toxic pesticide requires global action to prevent further harm to public health and the environment.

The Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee meeting in Geneva last week concluded that “endosulfan is likely, as a result of long range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted.”

Emboldened by this historic development, the Pesticide Action Network (PAN-Philippines) and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) jointly called on the government to enforce the “return to sender” directive by the Task Force MV Princess of the Stars for the some 10,000 kilos of endosulfan that were retrieved from the ill-fated passengers’ vessel.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) has confirmed with GAIA that, as of October 19, 2009, it has not received any application for export clearance for the toxic materials.

“This decision by international experts brings endosulfan a step closer to a global ban under the Stockholm Convention,” said Romy Quijano, President of PAN-Philippines.

The Stockholm Convention, which the Senate ratified in 2004, is a legally binding instrument whose aim is to protect human health and the environment by controlling production, use and disposal of extremely toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants or POPs.

“The POPs Review Committee has agreed to compile a risk management evaluation for endosulfan. The Committee will now ask parties and observers to submit proposals for the management and elimination of endosulfan, which it will evaluate and submit to the next Conference of Parties for approval,” he explained.

“The government should ensure that the recovered endosulfan is shipped back at once to its manufacturer before the company is compelled to cease producing the pesticide. We do not want our country to continue possessing the poisonous materials not even for a day and add to our toxic woes,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator of GAIA.

Endosulfan, an organochlorine pesticide, has been linked to congenital physical disorders, mental retardations and deaths in farm workers and villagers in developing countries in southern Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“Endosulfan not only kills people but contaminates our environment, our wildlife, human breast milk, women’s placentas, and even our newborns. It is clear that the time for this old, outmoded and dangerous pesticide is over,” said Dr Lloyd-Smith, Co-Chair, International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN).

Drums of endosulfan, imported by Del Monte Philippines from Israel-based Makhteshim Agam, were salvaged in October 2008 from MV Princess of the Stars few months after it capsized off Romblon Island and subsequently kept in a private storage facility located along Camalig Road, Meycauyan, Bulacan.

Following the shocking revelation that loads of endosulfan went down with the MV Princess of the Stars, health and environmental groups formed the “BANtay Endosulfan” (or Endosulfan Watch).

Comprised by the Cavite Green Coalition, EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, PAN, and the Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment, Inc., “BANtay Endosulfan” vigorously pushed for “return to sender” and for a total ban on endosulfan for
all uses.

19 October 2009

EcoGroups Condemn Continuous Waste Dumping in Marikina-San Mateo River

San Mateo, Rizal – Ecogroups condemned the continuous inaction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza and Marikina City Mayor Marides Fernando to stop the dumping of silt, thrash and other post-Ondoy disaster debris at the Nangka River, a major tributary of the Marikina River.

“As days go by, more and more debris collected in Marikina City are being dumped in the river resulting in further siltation and blocking of the river's waters. The inactions of Secretary Atienza and Mayor Fernando could result to the loss of more lives in the event that Ramil or other typhoons hit Metro Manila. The waste dumping in Nangka River must be stopped!,” said Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao, a community-based disaster preparedness and response group based in San Mateo, Rizal.

Located in the boundary of Barangay Nangka in Marikina City and Barangay Banaba of San Mateo, the Nangka River overflowed during the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy and families living along its banks and adjacent areas were heavily affected. Many of the houses along the riverbanks were washed away by the strong current while the remaining houses were covered in mud and silt.

Last October 12, the EcoWaste Coalition wrote a letter to Atienza, Fernando and Barangay Nangka chief Philip Urrutia requesting immediate action to stop the dumping of debris in the said river. The group, together with Greenpeace and Buklod Tao, also installed huge banners on the dumping site last October 16, reminding the said government officials to protect the river instead of turning it into a dumpsite.

But as of October 18, trucks with “MMDA” banners, continued with its dumping operations in the Marikina side of the river while a bulldozer pushed all the debris towards the river.

“Common sense dictates that water bodies such as rivers or lakes are not waste disposal areas. It is an important ecosystem, our source of clean water and provide livelihood for many poor communities. The best way to prevent disaster is to ensure that it will not happen and our waterways must remain free of any debris or garbage,” said Rei Panaligan of EcoWaste Coalition.

The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Clean Water Act prohibits dumping of garbage in rivers and other waterways.

“We who are living at the peripheral communities of huge cities such as Metro Manila and Marikina City are also endowed with environmental rights, rights to safety and security, same as the rights of those who live in the cit. Secretary Atienza and Mayor Fernando should stop toying with the lives of the people and act immediately to ensure that a disaster this magnitude should not happen again,” said Abinales.

16 October 2009

Environmental activists take action against dumping of flood wastes and debris into Nangka River

San Mateo, Rizal. The Greenpeace Water Patrol, EcoWaste Coalition and Buklod Tao Kalikasan today trooped to the Nangka River to expose the illegal dumping of flood garbage and debris into the River by the Marikina government and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

The groups are calling on the husband and wife tandem of Marikina Mayor Marides Fernando and MMDA chair Bayani Fernando to explain why several Marikina City and MMDA trucks have been caught dumping silt and garbage left by tropical storm Ondoy at the bank of the Nangka River.

The protesters planted a 10 meter banner at the San Mateo side of the river, facing Marikina that says “Basurang itinapon ninyo, babalik sa inyo!” (The garbage you throw will return to haunt you). Another banner planted right on the mound of wastes says “Protect our river.
Stop dumping!”

The mud-filled disaster debris has already choked around 80 percent of the river channel and the residents of San Mateo on the opposite bank are fearful because the impeded water flow has already started soil erosion on their side in just a matter of days. The waters have also turned very murky and the stench in the area is becoming unbearable.

“Flooding and landslides will only get worse with the increasing incidence of severe weather events brought on by climate change,” warns Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner.

“Unless we clean up our act and stop using our water bodies as waste dumps, the risks from toxic pollution made worse by extreme weather events will only get higher.”

The illegal activities have been documented by members of the environmental groups. Trucks dump silt and garbage onto the riverbank, and then bulldozers and payloaders push them into the water.

“Whether government-sanctioned or not, the activities violate both the Clean Water Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” said Rei Panaligan of EcoWaste Coalition. “This is yet another example of how our environmental laws are brazenly ignored. Marikina has been cited for being a clean city, but they are apparently dumping in other parts that are not visible to the general public.”

Under R.A. 9275 (Clean Water Act), discharging or depositing materials directly or indirectly into water bodies, which can cause water pollution or impede the natural flow of water, is prohibited. Similarly, R.A. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act) bans the open dumping of waste matters in public places, especially in flood-prone areas.

Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao Kalikasan likewise warns that aside from human justice, environmental justice may catch up with Marikina and the MMDA: “What were they thinking? We have just experienced probably the worst disaster to hit the area, and here they are doing exactly the kind of practice that contributed to making the recent typhoon an even bigger disaster in the first place! I would like to call on the Fernandos to do the right thing before another storm arrives and floodwaters bring this stuff back knocking on our doors.”

15 October 2009

Green Groups Campaign for Zero Waste Solutions to Lessen Ravages of Climate Change

Quezon City. In an audacious demonstration of solidarity and resolve, environmental advocates today vowed to redouble their efforts in pursuing sustainable consumption and Zero Waste solutions to help avert the climate crisis.

As the Filipino people come to grips with the deadly onslaught of storms, floods and landslides, the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and the Miss Earth Foundation stepped up their common plea for increased resource conservation and decreased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through greener lifestyle changes and Zero Waste.

In a post-Ondoy and Pepeng community outreach, the groups in collaboration with barangay and school officials organized a creative event in Barangay Krus na Ligas in Quezon City to encourage the public to get rid of wasteful habits and consciously cut the amount of trash going to bins, waterways and dumpsites.

To emphasize the issue of wasting, the groups paraded a “lion waste monster,” a horrendous creature whose head and body were crafted mostly from plastic bags – the most obvious manifestation of the ever-increasing throw-away consumption culture that became more visible during the post-Ondoy cleanup challenge. The lion “danced” to the vigorous beat of drums made of recycled materials.

“The destructive back-to-back storms remind us that we can no longer live ‘business as usual.’ Our wasteful consumption patterns are heating up our planet in a fast pace. By adopting Zero Waste as part of our daily routine, we conserve our diminishing natural resource base and curb pollution from the high volume of trash sent to dumpsites or dumped into our rivers and seas,” said Gigie Cruz of GAIA, which spearheaded the event to mark the “Global Day of Action against Waste and Incineration.”

“Composting our biodegradable discards, for instance, eliminates methane releases from dumpsites and landfills, while improving soil fertility and reducing demands for synthetic fertilizer and toxic pesticides,” she added. Methane has 72 times more global warming potential compared to carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

“It is time that we make drastic changes in our practices in response to what Mother Earth is telling us. We cannot afford another ‘Ondoy’ or ‘Pepeng’ just to tell us that we need to cut and manage our waste.

We should continue to help educate and empower our people to shift to more environmentally-sound alternatives and opt for greener choices now,” said Cathy Untalan, Executive Director, Miss Earth Foundation.

Together with Miss Earth 2008 Karla Henry, Miss Philippines Fire 2009 Patricia Marie Tumulak, Miss Philippines Water 2009 Catherine Loyola, Miss Philippines Air 2009 Michelle Martha Braun and Miss Philippines Earth 2009 runner-up Kirstie Joan Babor, the eco-queens likewise promoted a switch to “Wastong Nutrisyon” to avoid non-communicable diseases that are associated with diet-related lifestyle diseases.

For his part, actor Roy Alvarez of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee emphasized the need for all Filipinos to assume responsibility for their discards and live a waste-free lifestyle.

“We need everyone to take full responsibility in cutting our waste size to the minimum and in ensuring that our discards are ecologically managed and not merely thrown, dumped or burned. As stewards of Mother Nature, we all need to assume our role and duty to relate and care for the environment,” Alvarez said.

Following the parade, Mercy Sumilang of the Mother Earth Foundation, assisted by 10 “earth maidens and guardians,” facilitated a hands-on demonstration on the easy way of segregating discards into biodegradable, non-biodegradable and hazardous (also known as special waste) categories, and showed the audience the basic steps for successful household composting.

Zero Waste is the dynamic application of waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting at any level - household, institutional, community and country – that has been shown to reduce GHG emissions from avoided disposal and from reduced demand for virgin materials.

According to GAIA’s fact sheet on “Zero Waste for Zero Warming,” Zero Waste is among the cheapest and most effective strategies to combat climate change since its application lessens the use of fossil fuel from materials extraction, production, consumption and disposal, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions from these activities, while saving the forests and mountains and safeguarding other essential life support systems.

For a healthier and safer lifestyle and environment, the EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA and the Miss Earth Foundation have come up with tips that can help in reducing not only the volume but also the toxicity of waste, such as refraining from using single-use disposable items, cutting back on plastic bags and switching to reusable carry bags, properly segregating discards for easier and cleaner recycling, composting biodegradable discards into soil nutrients, separating hazardous waste from regular household waste, and by not burning or dumping discards.

Also present in the event were the representatives of the Cavite Green Coalition, Earth Renewal Project, EARTH UST, Health Care Without Harm, Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Sanib-Lakas ng mga Aktibong Lingkod sa Inang Kalikasan and Sining Yapak.

14 October 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Launches Toxic Awareness and Alertness Day to Prevent Chemical Disaster and Pollution

Quezon City. As Filipinos come to terms with the disaster wrought by tropical storms Ondoy and Pepeng, an environmental coalition has put forward the need for increased mass awareness on
toxic chemicals as a key strategy for preventing and mitigating accidents and disasters.

The EcoWaste Coalition yesterday launched the “Toxic Awareness and Alertness Day,” or “Alertoxic Day” for short, as a monthly initiative that intends to raise public awareness and precaution on priority “chemicals of concern” to avert chemical contamination and disaster.

The term “chemicals of concern” refers to chemical substances that present a known or suspected danger to human and ecological health, and have been targeted for global action due to their hazards such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and toxic metals such as lead and mercury.

“With the monthly ‘Alertoxic Day,’ we hope to inform the public about the health and environmental consequences of being exposed to these top chemicals of concern and how to avoid and reduce injurious exposures. By sharing information and knowledge, we hope to ward off potential accidents and disasters involving highly toxic chemicals,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group’s “Alertoxic Day” kicked off with an awareness and alertness campaign on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), specifically targeting the informal recycling sector such as junk shop proprietors and workers.

PCBs belong to the expanding list of highly toxic POPs, currently numbering at 21, that the international community, including the Philippines, has agreed to restrict and ultimately eliminate under the Stockholm Convention on POPs because they pose significant threats to human health and the environment.

Donned in yellow shirts bearing “Working together for a PCBs-free Philippines”, EcoWaste Coalition activists led by their newest green superhero called the “PCB Eliminator” roamed around Barangay Payatas, one of the major recycling hubs in Metro Manila, and along 20th Avenue in Cubao.

“Our team jumped from one junk shop to another, giving informational materials about PCBs and showing photos of what PCB equipment look like. We also used a loud speaker to inform community members of the hazards associated with recycling PCBs,” explained Rey Palacio, project staff of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We chose to target junk shops amid reports of indiscriminate recycling of PCB-contaminated equipment such as electrical transformers and capacitors in some junk shops that could endanger the health of waste workers and contaminate their surroundings with pollutants,” he added.

Other equipment where PCBs could be found are old fluorescent ballasts, liquid-filled circuit breakers, and voltage regulators, among others.

“We caution the recycling sector, particularly the junk shops and waste pickers, from handling PCB-containing equipment and waste oil as this can expose them to health-threatening and environmentally-harmful substances,” said Engr. Edwin Navaluna of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

“We should also point out that recycling PCBs goes against the Chemical Control Order on PCBs, and erring parties can receive notice of violation,” Navaluna added.

The CCO for PCBs follows the Stockholm Convention, which requires wastes containing POPs to be handled, collected, transported and stored in an environmentally-sound manner. The Convention, which the Senate ratified in 2004, requires that the POPs content be destroyed, prohibiting recovery, recycling, reclamation, direct reuse or alternative uses of POPs.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, junk shop workers and people in the vicinity could get exposed to PCBs through inhalation, skin contact with PCBs or contaminated materials, and by unknowingly consuming contaminated water or food products.

Health problems associated with exposure to PCBs include adverse reproductive, developmental and endocrine effects, liver problem and chloracne, with the latter two being the most common signs of exposure to PCBs. Three US studies even show that PCBs alter brain development and produce neurobehavioral problems in children. The chemicals are also suspected to be cancer-causing.

To safely eliminate the country’s stockpiles of PCBs, the government in cooperation with the public and private sectors and the United Nations has embarked on a project that will set up a non-combustion facility to safely and ecologically deal with the toxic materials.

“It is only after undergoing approved decontamination procedures that the recyclable by-products, such as the metals from transformers and capacitors, could be safely handled and recycled. Otherwise, the non-treated materials are health and environmental hazards,” the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

07 October 2009

Green Groups Deplore Dumping of Disaster Waste in Nangka River

Quezon City / San Mateo, Rizal. Environmental groups today deplored the reckless dumping of silt and garbage left by tropical storm Ondoy at the bank of Nangka River in Marikina City as a prelude to another disaster in the making.

The environmental groups EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace and the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society captured on camera the illegal dumping activities in the area on October 4 and 6 using Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) or city trucks.

The groups happened to be in Barangay Banaba in San Mateo, Rizal to assist Buklod Tao (a local group) in the post-Ondoy disaster cleanup and relief operations

The groups asked Mayor Marides Fernando to stop the illegal and dangerous dumping of mud-filled disaster debris and trash in Barangay Nangka at the same river that overflowed at the height of the storm, submerging and destroying houses in surrounding communities in Marikina City and San Mateo, Rizal.

Lyn Ramos, a member of Buklod Tao and resident of Baybay Ilog in Doña Pepeng Subdivision, Barangay Banaba sought the help of the EcoWaste Coalition amid concerns that the dumped silt and garbage at the Marikina side of the Nangka River will go down the waterway, block the free flow of the water and cause erosion at the San Mateo side of the river where her family and several others live.

“Nababahala kami sa pagsikip ng ilog dahil mga itinapong putik at basura na unti-unting nahuhulog sa tubig. Maaari itong magbunga ng panibagong kapahamakan,” she said. (“We are worried about the tightening of the river due to the mud and garbage deposits that descend inch by inch into the water. This can lead to another disaster.”)

“Sana’y ipatigil na ng pamahalaang lokal ng Marikina ang pagtatambak upang maiwasan ang pagbara ng ilog at pagguho ng lupa,” she added. (“We hope that the local government of Marikina will halt the dumping to prevent the clogging of the river and the erosion of the soil.")

“Government-sanctioned or not, the dumping at Nangka River is utterly illegal,” said Atty. Amang Mejia, legal counsel of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“This reckless act violates both the Clean Water Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and should be halted at once and rectified,” he said.

Discharging or depositing materials directly or indirectly into water bodies, which can cause water pollution or impede the natural flow of water, is prohibited under R.A. 9275 or the Clean Water Act.

Similarly, R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act bans the open dumping of waste matters in public places, especially in flood-prone areas.

“The dumping of disaster waste into the Nangka River is yet another evidence of how our environmental laws are brazenly ignored. We call on Mayor Fernando to honor the laws and stop the dumping, which we all know has exacerbated the still unfolding flood crisis,” the environmental groups said.

Photos by Bro. Martin Francisco. For more pictures, please click:

05 October 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Makes Clarion Call for Post-Disaster Debris and Waste Management

Quezon City. The mounds of mixed garbage that haunt communities inundated by tropical storm Ondoy point to the sheer lack of adequate and eco-friendly plan for managing disaster debris and waste that has to be filled.

“Over a week after Ondoy lashed the country and caused epic flood, we still find many communities languishing from uncollected debris and trash that reeks and obstructs the streets,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The post-Ondoy garbage disposal crisis shows how ill-prepared the government is in managing disaster debris and waste so that further health and environmental contamination is avoided from illegal dumping and improper recycling,” he pointed out.

The usual practice of just hauling the disaster debris and waste altogether to a dumpsite or landfill, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, is totally ineffective in safeguarding the people and the environment from harmful bacteria and chemicals.

“Disaster debris and waste that we find in the streets following the devastation brought by Ondoy are potentially hazardous because they are mixed, mud-filled and not easy to segregate,” he said.

Disaster debris include household debris (appliances, furniture, household goods), building debris (wood, concrete, metal, drywall) and vegetative debris (tree limbs, garden and farm waste).

“Some components of the waste stream require a different mode of retrieval and management to prevent the exposure of residents and waste workers, especially child waste pickers, from toxins that can harm human health and pollute the environment,” Calonzo stated.

Storm Ondoy, the EcoWaste Coalition observed, left various rubbish and wreckage that contain “problem waste streams” such as asbestos, treated wood, putrescibles, electronics, fuels, lubricants, refrigerants and chemicals that require special handling.

“We therefore urge the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to co-organize a participatory process with the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) that will craft policies and procedures for the ecological management of disaster debris and waste,” he said.

The NSWMC is an inter-agency body chaired by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza that oversees the implementation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, while the NDCC headed by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro coordinates disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation activities.

Electronic waste such as computer and television sets, washing machines, compact fluorescent lamps and other common electrical devices and appliances contain a range of toxic chemicals such as heavy metals (cadmium, lead, mercury), persistent organic pollutants (brominated flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls) and other chemicals of concern, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

“The improper retrieval of copper wires, metal scraps and other recyclables from e-waste can expose waste workers to a cocktail of toxic chemicals during the manual processing that can damage human heath and also pollute the air, soil and the surface and groundwater,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“For instance, we saw children burning electrical cables along Araneta Avenue to retrieve precious wires that can be sold for about P200 per kilo and, in the process, exposing themselves and their surroundings to toxic fumes,” he added.

The waste and pollution watchdog pressed for ecological disaster debris and waste management plan after bearing witness last Friday to the dumpsite-like situation in the ROTC Hunters St. and adjacent streets in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City.

During their hour-long visit to the densely-populated neighborhood, EcoWaste Coalition representatives saw huge piles of mixed garbage along the streets and in one basketball court, exposing residents and waste workers to disease-causing bacteria and chemicals.

04 October 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Community “Bayanihan” to Clear Streets of Storm Debris and Trash

San Mateo, Rizal – The EcoWaste Coalition today pushed for community “bayanihan” as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered Saturday the cleanup of Metro Manila streets in 72 hours of trash left by tropical storm “Ondoy.”

“Communal unity in the tradition of ‘bayanihan’ is necessary to achieve our shared goal of making our communities safe from stinking garbage that can harm the public health, especially the children who are most at risk to flood-related diseases,” said Ofelia Panganiban of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the call as it joined hands with Buklod Tao (a local group) in a cleanup drive in Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal to mark the feast day of St. Francis of Asisi, the well-loved patron saint of animals and the environment.

Among those who joined the cleanup were members of the Add Up Volunteers, Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice, EARTH UST, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation, and the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society.

“The tons of mixed trash piled up in the streets and water ways are ticking time bombs that can further worsen the hygiene and sanitation in communities that are striving to recover from the epic flood,” she warned.

“Given the enormity of the problem, we urge the government, the church, the academe and the civil society to join forces and speed up the clearing of disaster debris and waste in affected areas,” Panganiban emphasized.

“To reduce the volume of trash that has to be disposed, we urge everyone to retrieve, repair, reuse and recycle and to think twice before throwing anything to the bin,” she added.

Last Friday, members of the EcoWaste Coalition visited Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City and saw huge heaps of mixed garbage in the streets that instantly turned the thickly populated neighborhood into a virtual “Payatas” (referring to the infamous dumpsite in the city).

“The mini-dumps by the streets and riverbanks can become havens for flies, mosquitoes, rodents and other pests that can cause an outbreak of cholera, dengue and diarrhea. Also, the stinking garbage can aggravate the psychological trauma of the survivors, particularly the children,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Accompanied by members of Akbayan and the Malayang Tinig ng mga Kababaihan sa Komunidad, the environmental advocates witnessed the unhealthy and dangerous living condition of residents following the destructive flood.

“We’re saddened to see the wide range of resources scattered in the mini-dumps, including flood-damaged books, clothes, sofa, appliances and sacks of rice,” Panaligan added.

To assist community members in the cleanup efforts, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the Armed Forces of the Philippines to dispatch more active personnel as well as reservists to assist in the debris and waste removal in affected communities.

The group also proposed the deployment of college students, particularly those enrolled in military, social work, community development and environmental courses to pitch in and join the
community cleanup.

02 October 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Pleads for Government Help to Improve Sanitation in Evacuation Centers

Quezon City. The environmental group EcoWaste Coalition has appealed for increased government intervention to alleviate the worsening hygiene and sanitation in evacuation centers
for the survivors of tropical storm “Ondoy.”

The latest update today from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) shows that there are 83,493 families, comprising of 419,333 persons, that are staying in 526 evacuation centers.

Out of the 526 evacuation centers, 305 are in Region IV-A, 174 in Metro Manila, 45 in Region III and 1 each in Region XII and in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

“The extremely congested educational and sports facilities providing refuge to thousands of flood survivors are becoming breeding grounds for post-storm diseases due to garbage and inadequate amenities,” said Elsie Brandes-De Veyra of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.

“We appeal to all local officials to designate enough number of government personnel who will look after the health and hygiene needs of the evacuees,” De Veyra, a retired nurse, said.

“With respect to waste generated at the evacuation centers, we
recommend that the local authorities use the occasion to train and mobilize the evacuees on proper segregation of discards,” she stated.

“It will really help if the evacuees themselves can form committees to oversee their sanitation and other needs in a systematic and healthy way,” De Veyra said.

“This is an opportune time for the barangay, municipal, city and provincial waste management boards to show leadership on the eco-friendly way of dealing with disaster debris and in handling
garbage at the evacuation centers,” she added.

The EcoWaste Coalition pleaded for government action after hearing complaints from the evacuees about the lack of toilets and filthy surroundings in evacuation centers due to improperly managed discards.

In most evacuation centers, flood survivors have only one to two toilets to share and have to endure the stench of decaying mixed garbage.

The group echoed an earlier warning by the Department of Health (DOH) that the cramped and unhygienic conditions in evacuation centers can lead to the spread of disease-causing bacteria.

The DOH has identified the following diseases as commonly linked with floods: respiratory infections, influenza, measles, acute diarrhea, dermatitis, dengue and leptospirosis, a disease caused by coming into contact with bacteria in animal urine).

“The ecological management of discards is one way of preventing the outbreak of diseases in evacuation centers, and we hope that the authorities can allocate the necessary resources to help evacuees properly deal with their discards,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.