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.

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