31 August 2009

Watchdog Aghast at Continued Sale of Deadly Silver Jewelry Cleaners

Quezon City. Aghast at the ease of buying banned silver jewelry cleaning solutions that can cause cyanide poisoning and death when ingested, a watchdog on toxic chemicals has urged the authorities to impose the strong hand of the law against violators.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) to enforce the ban on the illegal sale of the over-the-counter jewelry cleaners that contain cyanide, a highly toxic chemical that can endanger life.

The University of the Philippines – National Poison Management and Control Center last Friday informed the EcoWaste Coalition that cases of accidental or suicidal intake of silver cleaners continue to pile up despite the ban issued by the DENR-EMB in July 2009.

In addition to cyanide, some of the toxic silver cleaners, which are also marketed as silver dip, silver polish and silver sparkle, contain thiourea, a probable human carcinogen that may cause irreversible effects, infertility, allergic skin reaction, liver damage and may be fatal if swallowed. The cleaning agents also contain ammonia, isopropanol, nitric acid and sulfuric acid.

“Our random market investigation shows that the ban on the sale of cyanide and thiourea-containing silver cleaners has been largely ignored as confirmed by the ease of buying the illegal stuff from uncaring jewelry shops,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Over the past weekend, the group’s chemical safety volunteers went to 10 shopping malls in Caloocan, Manila and Quezon City and without any difficulty bought silver jewelry cleaners from 19 shops, some of which have zero labeling at all.

The poisonous items were being sold for P40 to P80 in silver jewelry stores located in Araneta Square, Ever Gotesco Grand Central and Victory Central Mall in Caloocan City; Isetann Recto, Manila City Plaza, Seahorse Mall and Tutuban Center Mall in Manila; and in Ever Gotesco Commonwealth, Farmers’ Plaza and Gateway Mall in Quezon City,

The EcoWaste Coalition will forward the purchased items, along with the receipts, to the DENR-EMB for appropriate action.

The DENR-EMB has previously revealed that silver jewelry cleaners that the agency bought and subjected to laboratory testing showed “high content of cyanide which is fatal to humans when ingested.”

In separate letters sent to the EcoWaste Coalition and to the Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health (IACEH) in July 2009, EMB Director Julian Amador confirmed the highly toxic property of the silver cleaners.

“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,” Director Amador said.

In the interest of public health and safety, the EcoWaste Coalition submitted to the DENR-EMB a five-point action plan to halt the obvious violation of the agency’s directive banning the sale of cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaners.

These are:

1. Direct the Environmental Law Enforcement Task Force to conduct sustained surveillance against trade in cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaners and punish the violators.

2. Summon jewelry shop proprietors and managers to educate them about the Chemical Control Order for Cyanide and Cyanide Compounds, the prohibition against the sale of cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaners and the corresponding fines and penalties.

3. Prosecute importers and distributors to cut the supply chain.

4. Produce basic information, education and communication (IEC) materials (i.e., leaflets to inform consumers, jewelry shop owners and employees, law enforcers, and other concerned entities).

5. Promote information about safe alternatives for polishing tarnished silver jewelry.

“We hope that the DENR-EMB will exert every effort to rid the market of these toxic solutions in line with the goal of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management of improving measures to prevent and eliminate harmful effects of chemicals on public health and the environment,” Calonzo stated.

29 August 2009

Close the Dumps to Ensure Manila Bay Rehab, Say EcoGroups

Quezon City – The pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition challenged all concerned agencies and local government units to immediately close down all the waste disposal facilities within the Manila Bay as part of the clean-up and rehabilitation efforts to save the said water body.

“While the court is mandating all concerned agencies to act and do their part to ensure the immediate clean-up of Manila Bay, we are also calling out to our government officials to stop dumping municipal and hazardous wastes in Manila Bay and immediately shut down all existing dumps within the area,” said Romy Hidalgo, head of the Task Force Dumps/Landfills of the EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, dumps continue to exist and operate along the Manila Bay and its major tributaries despite a prohibition in the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 to operate a dump and landfill especially in environmetally-critical areas such as the Manila Bay.

“Our government spends millions of public funds to clean-up our Manila Bay but we continously pollute it by dumping our own garbage. The clean-up effort will be futile unless we stop the source of pollution. We can start by closing down all the existing dumps and landfills,” said Hidalgo.

The ecogroup identified the Navotas Landfill and Pier 18 to be the biggest waste disposal facilities along the Manila Bay. Tons of mixed municipal wastes from Manila City and Navotas are brought to Pier 18, hauled in barges and dumped in the landfill which is located within the foreshore area of Barangay Tanza, Navotas. Tons of garbage being brought to Pier 18 has transformed the old port to a huge dump facility from which garbage escapes and scatters to the sea.

According to Hidalgo, the government should also focus its attention in rehabilitating the old but abandoned dumpsites along the shores of Manila Bay such as the infamous Smokey Mountain and former municipal dumps of Navotas, Naic in Cavite and Obando, Bulacan.

“Our abandoned dumps are continously releasing tons of toxic leachate that contaminate our water systems. We need to put up an effective rehabilitation program targeting these dumps to mitigate the harm it causes to our environment. Don't let these dumps be our monument to our childern and become lasting evidence of how badly we treated our planet,” said Hidalgo.

The R.A. 9003 has prohibited the operation of open dumps since February 2004 and controlled dumps since February 2006. The said law also prohibits the establishment and operation of sanitary landfills within environmentally-critical areas such as the Manila Bay.


26 August 2009

Bishop: “Halt the demeaning practice of aerial spraying”

Quezon City. A Catholic prelate has spoken against the “demeaning and damaging” act of aerial spraying of pesticides in giant banana plantations in Southern Philippines as he called for “harmony in all of creation.”

“I lament and deplore this despicable act that diminishes the value of the human person in the name of business and profit,” said Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. in a statement faxed to the EcoWaste Coalition, an affiliate of the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS).

The NTFAAS has been rallying support in Metro Manila for the Mindanao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) to compel responsible government officials to abide by their sworn duty of protecting the public health and the environment.

Bishop Iñiguez who just celebrated his 24th Episcopal anniversary last Saturday described the issue as “an urgent humanitarian, health and environmental concern affecting the voiceless rural poor in the island of Mindanao.”

“Aerial spraying indiscriminately showers community people, including defenseless children, with toxic substances that are meant to exterminate pests,” noted Bishop Iñiguez who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“The Church in her prophetic role regards this issue as an urgent matter that has to be addressed head-on if only to stop an avertable corporate practice that almost certainly intrudes upon the dignity and health of the person, while sullying the environment with harmful chemicals,” explained Bishop Iñiguez .

“Commercial logic cannot justify the continued breach of the poor people’s inalienable right to life and to clean air, safe water and toxic-free environment that the Church treasures dearly,” he pointed out, adding that “every economic pursuit must serve and enhance the dignity of the human person and preserve the integrity of creation.”

“I therefore add my voice to the voices of the rural poor of Mindanao and enjoin the authorities in the government and the industry, as a just, preventive and precautionary step, to halt the demeaning and damaging practice of aerial spraying with steadfast resolve and urgency,” said
Bishop Iñiguez.


Bishop Iñiguez cited the CBCP pastoral letter “Upholding the Sanctity of Life,” issued in November 2008, that says “no material gain can equate the value of life.”

Advocates for ecological agriculture, chemical safety and human rights lauded Bishop Iñiguez for manifesting his earnest concern for the wellbeing of the rural poor in Mindanao.

“We thank and praise the good bishop for affirming his faith-centered solidarity with the pollution victims in their legitimate battle against chemical trespass. This beautiful expression of unity with the poor empowers those who have less in life to believe and work for the dawning of ecological conversion,” stated Fr. Glenn Melo of the Sustainable Agriculture Apostolate of the Diocese of Tandag and Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition

To drive his call for “harmony in all of creation,” Bishop Iñiguez cited the latest encyclical letter on “Caritas in Veritate” of Pope Benedict XVI, which reminds the faithful that “environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.”

In the same encyclical letter, the Pope emphasized that “the Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction.”

Bishop Iñiguez expressed his hope that the poor people’s plea for dignity and justice will resonate into the hearts of government and business leaders.

Bishop Iñiguez joins a growing list of Church leaders who have publicly spoken against the hazards of aerial spraying and the need for action to protect communities from dehumanizing exposure to toxic harm.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma had earlier said “the Dabawenyos fight is not theirs alone. Their fight is our fight too. For we belong to one home—Mother Earth.” Malaybalay Bishop Honesto Pacana also said that the struggle of MAAS “is about justice and human rights for the common good,” while Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo criticized aerial spraying as “inhuman” because it degrades the dignity of people.

24 August 2009

Sec. Duque Urged to Champion Public Health over Big Banana Profits

Manila. Farmers from far-flung villages in Mindanao today trooped to the headquarters of the Department of Health (DOH) to deliver a “health advisory” to Secretary Francisco Duque III: “take decisive action versus aerial spraying.”

Together with their throng of supporters in Manila, the representatives of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) urged Secretary Duque to act with utmost urgency to remedy the health and environmental injustice caused by the aerial spraying of pesticides in banana plantations in Mindanao.

At the instigation of Mindanao-based MAAS and Manila-based National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS), the DOH Executive Committee will meet today, as confirmed by Secretary Duque, to act on the problem that the farmers personally brought to his attention last Thursday.

With a white banner that says “end poison rain, ban aerial spraying” as backdrop, citizens donning black shirts and farmers’ hats gathered in silence near the office of Secretary Duque to remind him of the urgent issue at hand.

“Sana panindigan ni Secretary Duque ang sariling pag-aaral at rekomendasyon ng DOH na ipagbawal ang aerial spraying at gawin niya ang kanyang tungkulin na protektahan ang kalusugan ng tao dahil maraming buhay ang nakataya,” said Cecilia Moran, President of MAAS. (“We hope Secretary Duque will stand by the DOH’s own study and recommendation to ban aerial spraying and carry out his duty to protect the health of the people because so many lives are at risk.”)

A panel of experts from the DOH had earlier recommended the banning of aerial spraying of pesticides based on their findings that confirmed reported health and environmental impacts in the village of Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur.

The DOH-commissioned study released in May 2009 found traces of pesticides, including carcinogenic substances, in the blood of residents exposed to the aerial spraying. Air and soil samples also tested positive for pesticide contamination.

Various groups have appealed to Secretary Duque’s sense of compassion and justice and asked him not to give in to the well-oiled banana lobby, apply the precautionary principle, and demonstrate his leadership as health chief in upholding the people’s constitutional right to health and toxic-free environment.

Among those who took part in the “fax barrage” to Secretary Duque and his undersecretaries were the Active Citizenship Foundation, Buklod Tao, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation and the Partnership for Clean Air.

“The most supreme mandate rests upon your hands to protect public health against the proven hazards and biological effects of aerial spraying of pesticides. The police power of the state vested upon your office assures the rectification of an anomaly and protection of public health because it is not normal for anyone – rich or poor – to have undesirable chemicals in his circulatory system that is brought about by a business activity,” wrote Rene Pineda of COCAP, an affiliate of the NTFAAS.

“We can no longer take the beaten path of intensive chemical agriculture as it has been demonstrated that it beats the life out of the good earth, the clean air and water and sends those exposed to these chemicals on a slow march to disease and death. Aerial spraying only serves to expand the area of contamination, exposing more people to these toxic chemicals,” wrote Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

MAAS and NTFAAS have been pushing concerned government officials in the Health, Environment and Agriculture Departments to perform their obligations under the law to protect and defend the public health and the environment.

For more information about the campaign, please log on to:
www.dirtybananas.org

23 August 2009

Group Lauds Cebu Environmental Lawyers for Exposing Flawed and Toxic Project

Quezon City. An environmental coalition based in Quezon City has extolled topnotch lawyers of Cebu for helping unmasked an obviously flawed and ecologically-destructive project that is now the hottest news in the province.

“We commend Cebu lawyers Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Benjamin Cabrido and other fearless crusaders for environmental protection and justice for their unyielding energy to fight for what is good for the people and the ecosystems,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The anomaly in the provincial government’s purchase of submerged lands and their notorious plan to dump coal combustion waste in the area could have not come out in the open were it not for the lawyers’ watchfulness and courage to ask and probe,” he added.

“They are true patriots worthy of our respect and should be honored, not vilified, for their great service to Cebu and to the nation ,” Calonzo stated.

“The latest turn of events, including Gov. Garcia’s admission of mistake in throwing away public funds to buy lands underwater, shows how ill-conceived the coal ash dumpsite project is. The government has no decent recourse but to scrap the plan and let justice roll and reign,” he further said.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia recently apologized and took full responsibility for the land mess that saw the Capitol paying P98-million for a 25-hectare coastal property of which 8 hectares were underwater and 1.4 hectares were covered by mangroves.

Subsequent clarification by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR Region 7) showed that the agency had recommended the reversion of over 20 hectares of beach lots as they are either submerged in sea water or are coastal timberlands.

Atty. Cabrido and Atty. Ramos were instrumental in bringing to the surface the controversial purchase that was meant to be used as dumping site for the coal combustion waste of the expanded Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) plant in Naga City.

As partners of the Global Legal Action on Climate Change, the two lawyers wrote to Gov. Garcia, Vice-Gov. Gregorio Sanchez and to the members of the Cebu Provincial Board on 2 July 2009 insisting public access to information about the “extremely hazardous” venture.

Atty. Ramos, who teaches law at the University of Cebu, and Atty. Cabrido, who also teaches law at the University of San Jose Recoletos, chided the officials for engaging in coal ash dumping and demanded, among others, a copy of the deed of sale for the coastal property that is now under public scrutiny.

Gov. Garcia’s failure to heed the lawyers’ demand for the right to information and citizens’ participation in the decision-making processes for the coal ash dumpsite project compelled Atty. Cabrido and Atty. Ramos to file a case with the Ombudsman against the Governor and other officials on 17 August 2009.

It was only after filing of the case when the two lawyers obtained copies of the requested documents on 19 August 2009.

The lawyers’ persistence to ask and probe prompted the EcoWaste Coalition to send separate letters to the Cebu Provincial Government and to the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) through Secretary Lito Atienza and Director Julian Amador of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

The waste and pollution watchdog urged Gov. Garcia “learn from the unfolding health and environmental problems in US due to the toxic releases from coal combustion waste ponds, pits, dumpsites and landfills.”

The group also urged the Governor “to apply the precautionary principle, reconsider its coal ash deal with KEPCO, and prevent a potential chemical crisis that will even cost more than the US$1-million promised by the company.”

In their letter to DENR, the EcoWaste Coalition requested information about existing regulations governing the use and disposal of coal combustion waste and also sought Sec. Atienza’s opinion on the planned coal ash dumping in Naga City.

Over a month has already lapsed and the offices of Gov. Garcia and Sec. Atienza have yet to respond to the letters and queries by the EcoWaste Coalition.


19 August 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Launches New Project on Consumer Safety vs Toxic Chemicals

Quezon City. A public health and environmental coalition today launched a timely initiative to empower and protect consumers and communities against threats of chemical pollution.

At a simple gathering held in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition announced that its latest effort to advance chemical safety is being undertaken in partnership with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), the oldest and largest environmental organization in Sweden.

“We are launching ‘Project PROTECT’ amid growing concerns over toxic chemical trespass and exposure in our daily lives that could badly affect the health of our people and the ecosystems,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

In recent times, Filipino consumers have borne witness to a string of chemical contamination issues that saw products being recalled, seized or destroyed such as formaldehyde-containing candies, melamine-tainted milk, lead-stained slippers and cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaners.

“With this project, we hope to see informed consumers asserting their ‘right to ask and right to know,’ citizens’ groups seeking steps to cut and eliminate exposures to harmful chemicals, and government agencies strengthening and enforcing policies on chemical safety,” Calonzo explained.

With support from the 100-year old SSNC, ‘Project PROTECT’ (or “People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats”) intends to contribute to increased public awareness and action on chemical safety issues in the next two and a half years.

"SSNC has successfully been collaborating with and supporting EcoWaste during the last year, and finds its work most relevant and important. SSNC works for a strengthened civil society and improved chemicals management on a global level, and we look forward to continuously working on these issues with EcoWaste for the upcoming years," said Mikael Karlsson, President of the SSNC.

‘Project PROTECT’ will involve the implementation of relevant activities following the five subsidiary objectives of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) on 1) risk reduction, 2) knowledge and information, 3) governance, 4) capacity building and technical cooperation, and 5) illegal international traffic.

For example, the lineup of risk reduction activities being planned include conducting tests on chemicals of concern in consumer products, promoting the use of safe and effective alternatives, and advocating the sound management of toxics-containing product wastes such as spent mercury-laced compact fluorescent lamps.

While the general target will be the Filipino consumers, special emphasis will be given to poor consumers, women consumers and children consumers who will benefit a lot from having information and knowledge on chemical safety.

Among the more vulnerable social groups, ‘Project PROTECT’ will work with informal recyclers, including waste pickers and junk shop operators, who will be informed about the risks and dangers of handling toxic chemicals in the waste stream.

The EcoWaste Coalition expressed hopes that “Project PROTECT” will enhance its capacity to participate and contribute to ongoing public and private initiatives on chemical safety, especially those being implemented by government departments.

The Environment Department, for instance, is implementing a chemical accident prevention and preparedness program, while the Health Department is embarking on a national chemical safety program towards chemical poisoning prevention and control.

At the legislature, there are several resolutions and bills pending at the Senate and the House of Representatives that the EcoWaste Coalition would like to pursue, including measures that will phase out lead in paints and ban phthalates in toys and children’s products.

18 August 2009

Global NGOs Back Farmers’ Campaign vs Aerial Spraying

Quezon City. Global public health and environmental non-government organizations have thrown their full weight behind the farmers-led campaign to ban aerial spraying of pesticides in banana plantations in Mindanao.

In a statement released through the EcoWaste Coalition, the Pesticide Action Network – Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP), International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) pressed the Government of the Philippines to heed public clamor for human rights and chemical safety and forbid pesticide aerial spraying.

The groups particularly requested the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the national focal point of the Philippines for the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), to introduce a national ban and show its resolve to pursue chemical safety for public safety and environmental health.

SAICM is a global policy and strategy adopted in 2006 by governments, including the Philippines, to protect human health and the ecosystems from the harms caused by exposure to toxic chemical substances.

A 6-person delegation from the Mindanao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS, or Citizens Against Aerial Spraying) met Secretary Atienza last August 3, along with the Manila members of the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS).

“All eyes are now on Environment Secretary Atienza whom the affected farmers have approached for support. Will he listen to the farmers’ plea for health and justice? The whole world will be watching,” said Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PAN-AP.

“As the lead agency for SAICM, we urge him to show the way and uphold the rights of the people and nature not to be drenched and poisoned with toxic chemicals,” Rengam added.

Filipino health and environmental advocates are pinning their hopes on Secretary Atienza who made a historic decision banning endosulfan in February 2009 albeit temporary “to protect the public health from any undesirable risks and hazards” from the use and exposure to this highly
toxic pesticide.

“There is no reason why the government cannot fully ban toxic aerial spraying, aside from simply pandering to corporate greed. This immoral and harmful practice must be ended once and for all,” commented Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Earlier, a team of experts from the Department of Health had recommended the banning of aerial spraying of pesticides based on their findings that validated reported health and environmental impacts in the village of Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur.

“Banning the aerial spraying of pesticides will be a welcome step towards preventing chemical pollution and reducing chemical risks. It will hopefully induce the industry into switching to environmentally sound and safer substitutes, including non-chemical alternatives to managing pests,” said Australia-based Dr. Mariann Lloyd Smith, Co-Chair of IPEN.

Ecologically-produced food, Smith pointed out, is gaining market traction in Japan (the main destination of commercially-grown Cavendish bananas) and elsewhere as consumers become more conscious about food safety and human rights.

“We also hope that Secretary Atienza will complement the ban on aerial spraying with another directive that will initiate a participatory process towards creating a robust chemicals regulatory regime, in line with SAICM, to keep humans and the ecosystems safe from chemical assaults and harms,” added US-based Monica Wilson, Co-Coordinator, GAIA.

MAAS had earlier received 10 statements of support for its steadfast campaign against aerial spraying from Europe and North America. Four came from US (Pesticide Watch, Play Not Spray, Stop the Spray, People Against Chemical Trespass) and six from Europe (Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement 11.11.11 in Belgium, FoodFirst Information and Action Network in Italy, and the Catholic Women Organization, Friends of the Earth, Philippine Solidarity Group and Stichting Vredesburo Eindhoven in the Netherlands).

15 August 2009

Ateneo Students Light Candles as Clamor to Ban Aerial Spraying Spreads

Quezon City. As visiting farmers from Davao City patiently wait for Environment Secretary Atienza to act on their plight, concerned students of the Ateneo de Manila University sought divine help to put an end to the aerial spraying of pesticides in banana plantations in Mindanao.

Aerial spraying is the practice of dispersing pesticides from an airplane to rid banana crops of the sigatoka fungus, causing proven health and environmental problems as harmful chemicals are indiscriminately applied with no distinction between pests and humans.

Students joined the clamor to stop what has been called as “toxic rain” in a solidarity Mass and candle lighting organized yesterday by the Ateneo Student Catholic Action (AtSCA) at the College Chapel.

After the Mass officiated by Fr. Robert Rivera, SJ, students and guests from the Mindanao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS) lighted candles in front of a Marian statue and together prayed for aerial spraying to stop.

The event saw students committing to launching a signature drive and spreading information about the plight of communities affected by aerial spraying through various communication and social networking tools.

“As an organization rooted in faith that does justice, AtSCA stands by MAAS and pledge to support their quest for human rights, including the right not to be poisoned with hazardous substances, by telling others about their stories and hopes,” said Michelle Roque, President of AtSCA.

“We promise to spread awareness about the issue and to help the victims of aerial spraying in Mindanao in whatever way we can,” added Cherryl Si, President of the Development Society.

AtSCA and MAAS were joined by the representatives of the Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League, Ateneo Christian Ministry Group, Youth For Christ—Ateneo, Development Society, Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng Loyola Schools, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, and the Office of Social Concern and Involvement.

Members of the Alternative Research for Empowerment, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Families and Communities Network, Interface Development Intervetions and Mother Earth Foundation also came in solidarity.

In a statement, AtSCA called on the banana industry “to prioritize the welfare of the people over any profit-generating strategy” that undermines the rights of the people.

“We invite banana planters to explore alternatives to aerial spraying since these are equally effective in ridding crops of pests as seen in Bukidnon and North Cotabato where banana plantations continue to thrive despite compliance to provincial bans,” said AtSCA

AtSCA cited a recently released study commissioned by the Department of Health that showed traces of pesticides, including carcinogenic substances, in blood of residents and in air and water samples in Sitio Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur.

The study recommended a ban on aerial spraying and a shift to organic farming methods to protect the public health.

To download AtSCA’s statement on aerial spraying, please go to:

http://atsca.multiply.com/journal/item/4/AtSCA_Statement_on_Aerial_Spraying

10 August 2009

“End Toxic Rain, Ban Aerial Spraying” (Manila groups join clamor to ban aerial spraying)

Quezon City. “End toxic rain, ban aerial spraying.”

This is the resounding plea of a broad coalition of concerned students, lawyers and advocates for environmental health and social justice who have joined the clamor to ban aerial spraying in the country as they assert that human rights must take precedence over banana profits.

At a “solidarity gathering” held last Friday at the Ateneo de Manila University, Cecilia Moran, President of the Mindanao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) told the assembly that decades of aerial spraying of pesticides in banana plantations without a clear-cut policy ever since should be stopped by the government as a matter of duty because the practice has been violating people's constitutional right to life for so long.

"Bakit nila kami pinapaulanan ng lasong kemikal? Mga tao kami hindi peste. Kahit mahirap lang kami, may karapatan kaming mabuhay na may dignidad at manirahan sa ligtas at malusog na kapaligiran,” Moran said. (“Why do they spray us with chemical poison? We are humans not pests. Even if we are poor, we have the right to live with dignity and dwell in a safe and healthy environment.”)

The “solidarity gathering” was organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, Kaisahan tungo sa Kaunlaran ng Kanayunan at Repormang Pansakahan (KAISAHAN) and the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN) under the auspices of the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS).

The event, which saw the participation of Akbayan, Alaga Lahat, Ateneo Student Catholic Action, Green Convergence, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines and 20 other groups, is part of the rising advocacy of MAAS in Metro Manila to press
their case for an immediate ban on the aerial spraying of pesticides.

The case against aerial spraying that MAAS has persuasively presented and backed with facts from government studies performed by toxicologists and public health experts did not fall on deaf ears as evidenced by the outpouring of concern and compassion from student, church, environmental and other civil society groups.

“Human life comes first always, not business, not profit. God created bananas for humans and not humans for bananas. If the aerial spraying of bananas harms the very life that it ought to sustain, then it should be stopped,” Bro. Jomari Manzano, SJ, of the AdMU-based Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan said.

The Ateneo Student Catholic Action in a statement said “we strongly believe that the scales of justice should tip in favor of the people’s common good, health, and welfare, and we condemn the continued practice of aerial spraying as it is a clear violation of basic democratic principles on life, health and a healthful ecology.”

During the “solidarity gathering,” Metro Manila groups likened the plight of Mindanao communities impacted by aerial spray to the proverbial saying “ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay dama ng buong katawan” (“the pain of even the index finger is felt by the whole body”) and pledged to support the call for a national ban to remedy the injustice that could also befall the
entire nation if left unattended.

“We join MAAS in urging the government to give the highest priority to removing the health and environmental hazards from harmful chemicals and practices. A national policy banning the aerial spraying of pesticides will protect the people and the ecosystems against toxic pollution, and promote a shift to ecological agriculture,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“The campaign against the aerial spraying of pesticides represents a combination of the wise use of local governance powers and the active participation of communities for the defence of our environment,” Atty. Marlon Manuel, Coordinator of the Alternative Law Group (ALG), added.


04 August 2009

Breastmilk: Mother’s Best Gift to Baby and Nature

Quezon City. Citizens’ groups celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2009) by taking great pride in the huge health and ecological benefits of breastmilk.

In a joint statement, breastfeeding crusader Arugaan and waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition assert the supremacy of breastmilk as the most complete and “ first Zero Waste food” readily available for babies.

Ines Fernandez of Arugaan, an affiliate of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) extolled breastfeeding as the nature’s way of nurturing humanity.

“It is a natural and renewable resource produced by breasts and containing all the essential nutrients that a baby needs to grow and develop. Unlike commercial infant formulas, breastmilk does not create pollution,” Fernandez said.

“You do not need to clear forest for pasture. You do not have to cut trees for the milk labels, cartons and promotional gimmicks. You do not need to mine mountains to produce tin cans. You do not need bottles and nipples, waste water and fuel, and cause landfill build-up from discarded packaging and feeding gadgets,” she pointed out.

“As trees turn to the sun, babies turn to their mothers’ breasts. Such is the nature’s way,” stated Fernandez, who breastfed her daughter in 1975 and has been an active champion of breastfeeding since 1981.

The EcoWaste Coalition fully agrees with Arugaan as the pro-environment network describes breastmilk as the “first Zero Waste food.”

“As the first Zero Waste food for humans, breastmilk has capably lessened the environmental and climate impacts caused by the production, distribution, marketing, consumption and disposal of so-called breastmilk substitutes and other products linked with their use,” Gigie Cruz of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

Cruz, who also breastfed her daughter, stressed that the packaging of infant formula consumes huge amounts of tin, paper, plastic and other resources that is unnecessary if only the numerous benefits of breastfeeding are duly recognized and protected.

Arugaan and the EcoWaste Coalition also cited breastfeeding as a necessary strategy to cut the use and the volume of menstrual pads, tampons and diapers being thrown to the bins and onto the country’s teeming dumpsites.

“The tremendous health, ecological, economic and psycho-social benefits of breastfeeding should unite us all in supporting, protecting and promoting our culture of breastfeeding, and in defending it from deceptive advertising and chemical pollution,” the groups said.


03 August 2009

Paalam at Salamat, Tita Cory!

“We join a grateful nation in expressing our own grief over the sad demise of cancer warrior Tita Cory. We honor the radiant mother of democracy for her contributions to restoring our cherished freedoms and for helping create a national consciousness that treasures these freedoms. Above all, we thank her for the 1987 Constitution that attaches great importance to citizenship and the responsibility of the state to guarantee full respect of human rights, including the right of every Filipino to a healthy and safe environment.

Maraming salamat po at mapayapang paglalakbay.”


Rodel Gabac, Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice
Ines Fernandez, Arugaan/Save the Babies Coalition
Joey Papa, Bangon Kalikasan Movement
Noli Abinales, Buklod Tao
Ochie Tolentino, Cavite Green Coalition
Elsie Brandes – De Veyra, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution
Roy Alvarez, Earth Renewal Project
Manny Calonzo, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace
Merci Ferrer, Health Care Without Harm
Eileen Sison, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological
Alternatives
Neneng Joson, Krusada sa Kalikasan
Sonia Mendoza/Baby Reyes, Mother Earth Foundation
Romy Hidalgo, November 17 Movement
Bro. Martin Francisco, Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc.
George Dadivas, SALIKA
Rey Palacio, Sining Yapak
Fr. Bien Miguel,Social Action Center, Diocese of Antipolo
Ofelia Panganiban, Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines
Foundation, Inc.
Rei Panaligan, EcoWaste Coalition Secretariat

EcoWaste Coalition Calls for Full Investigation of Rodriguez Dumpsite Incident

Quezon City. An environmental network has called for full-scale investigation of a recent incident that saw portion of the perimeter wall of a huge disposal site in Rodriguez, Rizal caving in and unleashing trash into an adjacent creek.

On Wednesday night, part of the border wall surrounding the 19-hectare Rizal Provincial Sanitary Landfill located in Sitio Lukutan, Barangay San Isidrio in the town of Rodriguez collapsed due to incessant rains.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network of over 85 public interest groups, pressed the inter-agency National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) chaired by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to ferret out the truth behind the incident that evokes memories of the tragic Payatas garbageslide in July 2000.

“We call on the NSWMC to get to the bottom of the frightful breach in the boundary wall of the Rizal provincial dumpsite that sent trash cascading down the nearby creek,” said Romy Hidalgo of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force against Dumps/Landfills.

“What we saw on television and newspapers, which looked like a ruptured garbage tomb, raised a number of issues as regards the location and operation of the disposal facility,” he added.

“How could this happen to a much-trumpeted engineered facility that has received a seal of approval from the Environment Department and the NSWMC? Given the boom in landfill construction all over the country, we could not help but question the reliability of the rules governing disposal sites in terms of ensuring public health and safety,” Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo is referring to the implementation of DENR Administrative Order No. 10, Series of 2006 or the “Guidelines on the Categorized Final Disposal Facilities” signed by then Environment Secretary and NSWMC Chair Angelo Reyes, which specifies permitting, facility development and
operating requirements for “sanitary” landfills.

“The incident is just the tip of the iceberg. Wait until the leachate takes its heavy toll on the water supply and the people’s health,” commented Rene Pineda, President of the Citizens Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability (COCAPES).

To avoid the health and environmental hazards, the EcoWaste Coalition asked the national and local authorities to move away from dumpsites and landfills and enforce waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting programs with people’s involvement and support.

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise advised local officials to inspect disposal sites within their jurisdictions and conduct remedial steps to avert Payatas-like avalanche from happening during the rainy season.

There are 26 “sanitary” landfills (SLFs) currently operating in the Philippines, and 25 that are undergoing construction. There are also 349 sites being proposed for new SLFs. Despite long being outlawed, a total of 1,235 open and “controlled” dumpsites continue to operate in various parts of the country. The data are from the second quarter of 2009 report of the NSWMC.


Note:
To see the DENR DAO #10-2006, please log on to:
http://emb.gov.ph/nswmc/resources/DAO%2010.PDF