30 September 2009

Green Groups Push for Zero Waste as Key Solution to Climate Change and Disaster Mitigation

Quezon City, Philippines. A global environmental health alliance has joined forces with a local citizens’ coalition in pushing the government to fully embrace Zero Waste as key component of
the country’s strategy to mitigate climate change and disaster.

The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), comprising of over 635 members from 88 countries, including the Philippines, pressed the Arroyo government to actively implement waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting programs, otherwise known as Zero Waste, as the country rises from the onslaught of tropical storm Ondoy.

Together with the EcoWaste Coalition, a citizens’ network of more than 85 grassroots groups, GAIA pointed out that Zero Waste can dramatically reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are widely blamed for the changing weather patterns, including extreme weather disturbances such as the recent “epic flood” that claimed almost 250 lives and put Metro Manila and 25 provinces under a state of calamity.

The two groups made the common plea in observance of this year’s “Global Day of Action against Waste and Incineration” on September 30 that coincides with the ongoing UN-sponsored talks on climate change in Bangkok, Thailand.

The groups commemorated the event today through a disaster relief and feeding program held at Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal in solidarity with Buklod Tao (a local group) and the survivors of the devastating flood.

Citing information from the group’s “Climate Change Survival Guide,” Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition, said that “the build-up of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere leads to the entrapment of heat and to subsequent changes in temperature and to shifting wind and
rainfall patterns.”

“Zero Waste is a doable strategy that can yield huge climate benefits that can help disaster-prone countries like the Philippines cope with the anticipated frequency and intensity of weather disturbances such as increased tropical storms and elevated floods,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator of GAIA.

GAIA’s “Zero Waste for Zero Warming” clarified that avoided emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from reusing, recycling and composting discards can significantly cut the demand for virgin materials.

The reduced demand for virgin resources prevents the formation of GHGs from every step of the extraction, processing, manufacture, transportation, consumption and disposal trail, while saving the forests and mountains and safeguarding other essential life support systems.

Zero Waste, the groups further said, will strengthen current drive towards the ecological management of discards by stopping illegal dumping that blocks waterways and pollute water bodies as well as halting landfill incursion of watersheds and other critical ecosystems.

To support their views, the groups cited the newly-released report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which finds that 42 percent of U.S. GHG emissions are influenced by materials management policies. The report cites significant emissions cuts with waste reduction, recycling and improved product design.

The report “Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices,” estimates emissions savings of 150 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year by doubling the U.S. national recycling of construction and demolition discards. Reducing U.S. product packaging by half could result to as much as 105 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA strongly favored Zero Waste over waste disposal technologies such as landfills and incinerators, including “waste to energy”, plasma, gasification, and cement kiln incineration.

They also expressed hope that government will agree and champion the civil society’s call to “stop trashing the climate,” support “Zero Waste for Zero Warming” and focus mitigation funds in the waste sector on recycling and resource recovery projects, excluding landfills and incinerators.

26 September 2009

Massive Metro Floods: A Wake Up Call to Urban Litterbugs and Inept Officials

Quezon City. The massive flooding in Metro Manila and nearby places following the landfall of tropical storm “Ondoy” near the boundary of Aurora and Quezon provinces this morning should serve as a “wake up call” to citizens and the authorities to stop the indiscriminate dumping of trash.

The waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition held stubborn litterbugs as well as inept public officials responsible for the widespread inundation of communities as the storm escalates and brings heavy rains.

“We blame uncaring litterbugs for clogging the waterways as well as some public officials for sleeping on the job, particularly for failing to enforce local and national laws against the illegal dumping of garbage. The massive flooding should rouse the authorities from their slumber and implement the ecological management of discards without delay,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Based on text reports we received from our members, the massive flooding affected not only the usual low-lying areas but also places that have not been flooded for years, turning streets into instant swimming pools,” Calonzo added.

Environmentalist Rene Pineda reported that he commuted from Katipunan Avenue and got stranded in heavily flooded Marcos Highway. He waded through waist-deep, one kilometer stretch until he could get a ride to Antipolo City where he resides.

In Tatalon, Quezon City, along Araneta Avenue, community worker Osang Palma reported “lagpas na sa bahay ang baha dito,” forcing residents to flee their homes and evacuate to a nearby covered court and to Diosdado Elementary School.

Environmentalist Gigie Cruz reported seeing people on top of their rooftops as flood inundates Barangay Addition Hills in San Juan City.

Youth leader Tope Peralta reported knee-deep flooding in Barangay Maybunga, Pasig City, while film actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez likewise reported knee-deep flooding in Barangay Loyola Heights in Quezon City.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the callous practice of some citizens to dump their discards wherever they please, from cigarette butts and other tiny litter to bagful of mixed refuse, is a major cause of rapid flooding after heavy rains.

Discards thrown in streets, canals, creeks and rivers ultimately end up clogging the watercourse, disrupting the flow of rainwater, and turning low-lying areas into filthy pools that can harm and even kill humans and animals, damage properties, spread water-borne diseases and lead to economic losses.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the routine clearing and dredging operations are essential steps to mitigate flooding during the rainy season, but will be pointless if littering and dumping remain uncontrolled.

“The ecological management of discards is a critical component in any complete flood prevention and management program,” the EcoWaste Coalition said, stressing that individual, family and community participation is the key for its success.

“We call on all barangay councils to exercise effective leadership in educating and mobilizing our people towards the environmentally-sound management of their discards for tidier, healthier and more vibrant communities,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

Considering the special needs of informal settlers, especially those living along creeks and rivers, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the authorities to ensure that constant efforts are made to inform and assist them in managing their refuse for public health and safety.

“The informal settlements are here to stay unless and until we have fully addressed the needs of our people for humane and sustainable employment, livelihood and housing. In the meantime, we urge the government to invest more in uplifting their living environments, including implementing a program on ecological waste management program that will cater to their specific conditions,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

25 September 2009

Legal Eagles Support Farmers’ Quest for Health and Justice as Public Pressure on PGMA to Ban Aerial Spraying of Pesticides Rises

Manila. Top-notch lawyers have joined hands with 21 farmers from Mindanao in seeking a ban on the aerial spraying of pesticides in giant commercial banana plantations that is adversely affecting the public health and the environment.

The visiting farmers from Mindanao are members of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) from Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao City. They have come to Manila to ask President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to act on their plight by ordering an outright ban on aerial spraying.

At a press conference held today at the premises of Caritas Manila where the 21 farmers are camping out, lawyers Christian Monsod, a former chairman of the Commission on Elections; Antonio Oposa, a recent recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award; and Magistrado Mendoza, a noted practitioner of alternative legal service, took up the cudgels for the pollution impacted communities and explained why MalacaƱang should side with them.

Atty. Oposa invoked the golden rule – “do not do to others what you would not like to be done to you” – as he called upon President Arroyo and officials of the Departments of Agriculture, Environment and Health to act fast on the farmers’ grievances.

“Please study carefully and fulfill your legal mandates. Failure to do that by a public official can result in personal liability. Let us apply the highest law, higher than legislative enactments, higher even than the Constitution. Let us apply the golden rule,” reminded Atty. Oposa who has been cited internationally for his exemplary work in protecting Mother Nature through environmental litigation, advocacies and networking.

Oposa recently grabbed headlines for asking the Supreme Court to cite several members of Arroyo’s cabinet in contempt of court for failing to report on what their offices have been doing to clean up Manila Bay.

“These are small farmers with a birth-right to a healthful environment. These farmers need help because the government is foot-dragging on the issue of aerial spraying,” said Atty. Christian
Monsod.

Citing information from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a UN agency, Monsod pointed out that the small farmer with less than 2 hectares, numbering 400 million worldwide, is the answer to the growing problem of food insecurity.

“It is the right of every citizen, rich and poor, young and old, to breathe clean air. Such right should be respected and upheld at all times. Any violation of such right gives rise to a legitimate action against the violator and the government that fails to protect and uphold such right,” stressed Atty. Magistrado Mendoza, partner at Dellosa, Mendoza, Bag-ao and Manuel law firm.

Lawyers Marlon Manuel of the Alternative Law Group, Mitch Bastasa and Claire Demaisip of Kaisahan and Bobbie Santa Maria of the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal were also present to lend their support to the farmers-led movement premised on protecting basic human rights and applying the precautionary principle.

The support from the lawyers and from various member groups of the Manila-based National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS) came about as the marginalized farmers train their sights on pressuring President Arroyo to make a conclusive order that will protect the farmers from toxic harm.

“Nagpapasalamat kami sa suporta ni Atty. Oposa at iba pang abogado. Ang isyu namin laban sa aerial spraying ay lehitimong isyu ng mga maliliit na magsasaka na may malaking kontribusyon sa pag-ikot ng ekonomiya ng ating bansa,” said Lizel Compas, MAAS farmer leader from Compostela Valley. (We thank Atty. Oposa and the other lawyers. Our issue against aerial spraying is a legitimate issue of the small farmers who have huge contribution to country’s economic cycle.”)

“Ang nakataya dito ay ang kalusugan at buhay ng mga magsasaka at ng aming mga minamahal na pamilya. Nananawagan kami sa dagliang pag-aksyon ni Pangulong Arroyo sa pamamagitan ng paglalabas ng executive order na magbabawal sa aerial spraying,” he emphasized. (“What is at stake here is the health and life of the farmers and our beloved families. We call for President Arroyo’s urgent action through an executive order that will ban aerial spraying.”)

During the last several weeks, MAAS and NTFAAS have spoken with Secretaries Atienza, Duque and Yap and organized protest actions at their respective offices, but to no avail.

While the DOH Executive Committee has already recommended a halt on aerial spraying as a precaution against toxic harm, the government has yet to make a decisive action banning aerial spraying nationwide.

According to both MAAS and the NTFAAS, the many decades of not having a policy banning aerial spraying has illegally and immorally exposed the farmers to a great injustice that President Arroyo now need to rectify.

22 September 2009

STATEMENT OF THE ECOWASTE COALITION ON THE DEMISE OF TITA ODETTE ALCANTARA

"We mourn the untimely demise of Odette Alcantara, one of the most audacious and passionate defenders of Mother Earth, who died of aneurysm on 22 September 2009. Tita Odette, as she is fondly called, left a colorful legacy of environmental advocacies, including the tireless pursuit of ecological alternatives to the wicked and corruption-ridden “hakot-tambak” approach to handling discards. Along with the other founding leaders of the Clean Air Coalition and EcoWaste Coalition, she championed the incineration ban that is now enshrined under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, promoted Zero Waste consciousness and practice, and fought against the reckless promotion of landfills and incinerators. Together with the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition, Odette resisted the shameless attempt to turn the country into a toxic dumpsite by Japan in the guise of free trade. We will always remember Odette’s environmental zeal and activism, and thank her for the many fights she fervently steered. She is already missed!"


Note: Her remains were cremated last night, September 22, and brought to her residence at 43 Hillside Loop, Bridge A, Quezon City, phone: 6471181. Interment will be on October 1, her 69th birthday; venue to be announced

2010 Candidates Urged to Bare Environmental Plans and Solutions

Quezon City. A coalition of citizens’ groups dealing with pollution, climate and chemical safety issues exhorted all politicians eyeing the 2010 polls to inform and interact with the people about their environmental plans and solutions.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a network of over 85 groups, pressed the politicians to commence a real honest-to-goodness disclosure of where they stand on the many environmental issues afflicting the country and the solutions they offer if any.


“We urge our politicians to publicly disclose their environmental agenda and plan for action. Given the unhealthy state of our environment, we find it essential for presidential and other political aspirants to unveil an authentic people-centered prescription for breathing new life into our degrading ecosystems,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.


“The people expect a robust program from the country’s new leadership that will genuinely address the confluence of garbage, toxic and climate woes that is affecting the country’s poor the most,” he added.


In a statement sent to the press, the EcoWaste Coalition identified specific environmental questions that contenders from all political parties and blocs should address as integral parts of their platform of good governance and change in 2010.


The questions were compiled from a text survey involving some of the Coalition’s participating groups from the academe, church and the broad civil society.


“How will you clean up Pasig River, Manila Bay, Laguna Lake and other polluted marine ecosystems? How do you intend to cut the production of garbage and their disposal in dumpsites, landfills as well as water bodies? How will you protect consumers from toxic chemicals that abound in common products for children and adults alike?”


“The Philippines is one of the world’s most deforested and polluted countries. What do you think caused this and what do you plan to do about it if elected as President? How will you save the Sierra Madre from further destruction due to illegal logging, mining, dumping and kaingin?”

“How do you plan to support and mainstream energy from renewable sources? What is your position on nuclear power and coal-fired power plants? Are you in favor of recommissioning the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant?”


“What is your position on the public clamor to ban aerial spraying in commercial agricultural plantations as it adversely affects the people’s health, environmental and human rights? What is your position on genetically-engineered crops as major exports of the Philippines? Will you approve a national ban on GMOs? Will you implement fully organic agriculture in the country?”


Some respondents also asked questions pertaining to the presidential candidates’ knowledge and position on the Philippine Agenda 21 or PA 21, which is the country’s national agenda for sustainable development based on the Global Agenda 21 that resulted from the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).


“Will PA 21 guide you in your policies and decisions if elected? Will you implement it to the letter as mandated? And if yes, are you willing, despite immunity from suits, to go to jail for violating PA 21.”


Meanwhile, some members of the EcoWaste Coalition expressed interest in knowing whether the candidates will receive campaign donations from the chemical, pesticide, pharmaceutical, tobacco, mining and waste management industries, some of which have drawn the fury of affected groups and communities for their harmful effects on public health and the environment.


“What is your policy on accepting funds from businesses and industries? Will you receive donations from companies engaged in environmentally destructive ventures? How will you ensure that the receipts of funds from donors will not affect your independence to speak and to act in favor of the public interest? How do you intend to be transparent on financial matters involving your campaign?”


"We hope that candidates from all parties and blocs will dwell on issues and use every opportunity to inform the Filipino voters about their views and solutions to the many environmental issues facing the nation,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

15 September 2009

EcoWaste Coalition pushes for tighter rules on toxic chemicals as plastic shoes show high levels of environmental toxins

Quezon City. An investigation on toxins in flip-flops, sandals, clogs and other plastic shoes in seven countries, including the Philippines, indicated disturbing concentrations of harmful chemicals that are injurious to human health and the environment.

The study by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), the renowned 100-year old environmental organization in Sweden, in cooperation with the EcoWaste Coalition and partner groups in India, Indonesia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, showed that the tested plastic shoe samples contained varying amounts of harmful chemicals regardless of the country of purchase, price, model or color.


“We have found frightening concentrations of environmental toxins in the shoes that can spread to people and to the environment as the shoes become worn. The investigation also shows that companies have no control and that legislation is too weak,” said Mikael Karlsson, President of the SSNC.

According to the report “Chemicals Up-Close,” 17 of the 27 pairs of plastic shoes tested positive for phthalates (pronounced “thal-ates”), which are used as softening agents in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.


A fact sheet on phthalates prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition as part of its work on consumer information for chemical safety identifies phthalates such as BBP, DBP, DEHP, DiDP, DiNP and DnOP as endocrine disruptors associated with developmental and reproductive disorders, including incomplete testicular growth and decreased fertility in men. DEHP, in particular, is officially classified as being able to cause impaired fertility and harm to the unborn child.


Three of the four samples from the Philippines were found to contain di-ethylhexyl phthalate or DEHP, with one sample containing DEHP and di-isodecyl phthalate or DiDP, and another sample containing DEHP and dibutyl phthalate or DBP.


One locally-manufactured slipper for children that the EcoWaste Coalition bought in SM North EDSA Department Store contained 6.9% of DEHP and 4.7% of DiDP, while the other China-made flip-flop purchased in Puregold Supermarket in Cubao had 8.6% DEHP. A men’s slipper bought in SM North EDSA Department Store registered the highest amount of DBP at 9.6% among the plastic shoe samples from seven countries.


“There is no justification for the continued use of harmful chemicals such as phthalates in consumer products that could pose grave health and environmental risks. The toxins are spread as the products are used and can leach out when disposed in water bodies, dumpsites and landfills,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.


“We hope that the results of the investigation would prompt our lawmakers and regulators to craft and enforce legislation that will tighten, if not completely end, the use of toxic chemicals that are dangerous to public health and the environment,” he added.


The shoes were also tested for a number of tin organic compounds and for heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, manganese, nickel and zinc.


All the samples from the Philippines and elsewhere tested positive for varying concentrations of one or more of the 10 heavy metals analyzed, many of which are harmful to the endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems, are carcinogenic and allergenic, and highly toxic to aquatic organisms. The highest level of copper content was found in one shoe sample from the Philippines, while another sample (also from the Philippines) tested high for nickel content.


The investigation also showed that local and global regulations on harmful chemicals are “far too weak” and that urgent and concerted policies are required to safeguard consumers and the environment from toxic harm.


The EcoWaste Coalition is one with the SSNC in proposing the development of legally-binding agreements that will result to the phase out of hazardous chemicals in consumer products within the framework of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).


Here are some recommendations to protect the consumers and the environment from health and environmental toxins in consumer goods:


Recommendations to Consumers:

1. Assert the right to know: demand complete product information from the manufacturer and retailer.

2. Avoid PVC products and go for safer substitutes that do not contain phthalate plasticizers or softeners.

3. Refrain from patronizing products made of toxic substances or if the manufacturer cannot provide essential data to make informed choices.

Recommendation to Manufacturers and Retailers:

1. Apply the substitution principle: produce quality products sans harmful chemical ingredients, especially when safer alternatives are available.

2. Ensure that chemicals used in production to do not adversely impact human health and the environment following the precautionary principle.

3. Inform consumers about chemicals used in shoe production, and which of these are present in the finished shoes.

4. Provide complete product information, including pictorial hazard warnings on products containing hazardous substances.

Recommendations to Politicians and to the Government:

1. Review the Priority Chemicals List of the Philippines and disclose measures undertaken to protect the public health and the environment from these chemicals.

2. Issue Chemical Control Orders (CCOs) on harmful substances of priority concern.

3. Reject market access to manufacturers that fail to provide data relevant to chemical contents of their products and their potential health and environmental impacts.

4. Support legally-binding global initiatives for the phase-out of harmful chemicals such as mercury and lead.

5. Increase budgetary resources for the effective enforcement of chemical safety regulations, including the national implementation of SAICM.


To see the full list of analyses of the shoes that were investigated, please log on to:

http://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/In-english/chemicals/plastic-shoes/


Free press images of the shoes to download:

http://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/press/pressbilder/plastskor

14 September 2009

Grassroots Citizens Hit Dumping in Sierra Madre

Quezon City. Grassroots citizens have banded together to halt the unchecked dumping of trash in the provinces along the Sierra Madre biodiversity corridor.

Eighty participants from some 30 groups of the two-day “Save the Sierra Madre Summit” held last week in Novaliches, Quezon City vowed to keep the lush mountains that extend over the provinces of Quezon, Rizal, Bulacan, Aurora, Qurino, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela up to Cagayan free of horrendous dumpsites.


In a resolution that was unanimously adopted, the Save the Sierra Madre Network (SSMN) slammed the dumping in Sierra Madre as “outright rape of the forest ecosystem” akin to the unbridled logging, mining and land conversion in the vast area.


“We believe that Sierra Madre is a living monument of life and that every citizen and community has the duty to resist any plan to turn it into a graveyard of garbage,” the participants declared.


“Regardless of how they are called, the siting and operation of dumpsites in Sierra Madre is like a death sentence that will destroy the integrity of the forest, her rich biodiversity and her capacity to support sustainable development,” they said.


The latest available data from the website of the National Solid Waste Management Commission show the existence of open dumpsites, controlled dumpsites and “sanitary” landfills in the Sierra Madre provinces.

On the whole, there are 45 open dumpsites, 21 controlled dumpsites and 7 “sanitary” landfills in the nine provinces.


“Grassroots citizens who care for Sierra Madre refused to go along with the government-authorized push for landfills. We hope to pull off more campaign victories for Mother Earth with this propitious alliance with the SSMN,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.


Among the most controversial facilities that have caught the ire of the EcoWaste Coalition, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Buklod Tao and the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, include the “sanitary” landfills situated in Norzagaray and the City of San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, and those in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) and San Mateo, Rizal.


The Summit participants resolved to ask the local and national governments to carry out the following to protect the air, water, soil and the entire Sierra Madre:


1. Shut down, clean up and rehabilitate all the dumpsites.

2. Stop to use of destructive and polluting waste technologies, including landfills, incinerators and co-processing of waste in cement kilns.

3. Enforce the ecological management of discards sans dumping and burning.

They further urged the authorities not to use public funds for the collection and dumping of trash into the Sierra Madre.


“Instead, we call upon the government to earmark public funds for popular education and mobilization on waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting in line with the Zero Waste approach to solve our stinking garbage woes.”

13 September 2009

Sen. Pimentel Condemns Aerial Spraying as Unconscionable Act as NTFAAS Urges PGMA to Take Action Now

Quezon City. Opposition leader Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. has called on the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to act decisively and ban aerial spraying in the interest of public health and welfare.

In a text message sent to the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS), the Senate minority leader denounced the controversial practice of aerial pesticide operations in giant commercial banana plantations in Mindanao.


“I condemn aerial spraying of farmlands as unconscionable act of corporate farming that causes tremendous damage to farms and to the ecology. It should be banned,” stated Senator Pimentel.


Senator Pimentel had earlier said that big-time banana growers are reluctant to shift to manual ground-spraying of pesticides because they would supposedly incur bigger expenses resulting in the reduction of their profits.


"But it must be emphasized that the health and welfare of the people should not be sacrificed in the name of the business interests of the owners of the banana plantations," Pimentel asserted.


NTFAAS cautioned President Arroyo against efforts by the banana industry and their cohorts in government to sweep under the rug and attempt to subvert through a “favorable” peer review the government-documented toxic effects of aerial spraying to human health and to the environment.


“The President should use her scheduled visit to Mindanao next week to announce a blanket ban on aerial spraying as an agricultural practice as a precaution against proven chemical contamination of marginalized communities,” challenged Rene Pineda, head of the NTFAAS.


“She should also re-articulate and echo the collective positions of global experts who all called for the cessation of industrial activities that injure humans and the environment during the most recent Philippine-government hosted International Conference on Green Industry in Asia,” he added.


Pineda emphasized that President Arroyo has the highest mandate under our Constitution to protect marginalized Filipinos from the validated, destructive effects of aerial spraying.


“She should look poor farmers in the eyes and see their miseries, as she should also see banana planters’ and their cohorts’ eyes to realize that they have been lying through their teeth with impunity for the longest time. She should, therefore, issue an executive order forbidding aerial pesticide application, better yet, she should announce a shift to ecological farming methods to protect the people and the environment from pesticide drift and contamination,” he pointed out.


The NTFAAS also prodded other political figures to cross party lines and join the clamor to rectify the gross injustice caused by aerial spraying to the poorest of the poor.


“We call upon the country’s leaders from all sides of the political spectrum, particularly those vying for top national positions in the 2010 elections, to publicly defend the people’s right to health, chemical safety and poison-free environment,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, a member of the NTFAAS that is also pushing for green agenda in next year’s polls.

“We urge all presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial and congressional bets to listen to what those who have in less in life are saying, refuse campaign donations from the banana industry and go for aerial spraying ban nationwide,” he added.


Aside from Senator Pimentel, Senator Miguel Zubiri and Representatives Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Teofisto Guingona III and Rufus Rodriguez have publicly sought a ban on aerial spraying in view of its recognized hazards to health and the environment.


10 September 2009

DA Sec. Yap vows to follow DOH action on aerial spray

Quezon City. Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap promised to follow whatever the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) on the banning of aerial spraying in the country.

In a meeting with the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) and the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS) Tuesday, Yap said “if DOH says aerial spraying affects health and should be stopped, DA (Department of Agriculture) would follow.”


He also added that he “only wants advanced briefing so he could inform his industry and find solution for his industry”. Yap announced his meeting with Environment Secretary Jose Atienza and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III tomorrow for a common policy concerning this agricultural practice of the banana plantation industry.

Joining MAAS and NTFAAS in the meeting with Yap were lawyer and former Comelec Commissioner Christian Monsod, leaders of the Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Ecowaste Coalition, Kaisahan and Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal, and students from Ateneo de Manila University.


“We are confident that Sec. Yap will be true to his words that he will abide by the DOH-commissioned study that subsequently resolved and proposed to the high-level inter-agency committee to ban aerial spraying,” said Rene Pineda, head of NTFAAS.


MAAS President Cecilia Moran also thanked Sec. Yap for his commitment. “Nagpapasalamat kami sa mga binitawang salita ni Sec. Yap. At sana talaga ay mahinto na ang aerial spraying. Tinanong ko siya mismo, ikaw ba Mr. Secretary gusto ba ninyo na ang mga anak mo ay mae-aerialan habang papunta sa school? At sabi niya ay siyempre hindi".


The DOH executive committee headed by Duque decided to adopt the recommendation of the study “Health and Environmental Assessment of Sitio Camocaan in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur”, the highly contested among them, is the recommendation banning the use of aircraft for spraying.


DOH said: “Given the results generated by the joint study, and in the light of the precautionary principle espoused by the Rio declaration of which the Philippines is a signatory, aerial spraying must be stopped until proof of its safety is clearly established by the industry.”


Also included in the DOH decision is “to perform systematic and periodic monitoring of pesticide residues and metabolites in the environment of Camocaan and other communities adjacent to banana plantations and do remediation where necessary,” in coordination with other agencies and in cooperation with the industry.

Duque and his officials also advised the industry for a shift to organic farming techniques as they noted that acute and chronic pesticide exposure can result in harm to both health and environment.

Pineda and his group also criticized Director Norlito Gicana of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) for his alleged inutility in regulating hazardous pesticides . They said Gicana could not even answer when asked if he would allow himself and his family live in aerially sprayed village.


“The long-drumbeated arguments of Dir. Gicana that FPA only allows low toxicity of Mancozeb to be used as fungicide has been devastated. He could not justify upon questioning why the commercial and regulatory procedures for its use require protective gear and clothing while his agency allows banana companies to aerially spray residents in and around plantations with Mancozeb and other pesticides without protective gears,” Pineda said.


A September 2005 Reregistration Eligibility Decision for Mancozeb of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) showed that “the toxicity database for mancozeb demonstrates that the thyroid is a target organ for mancozeb. Thyroid toxicity was manifested as alterations in thyroid hormones, increased thyroid weight, and microscopic thyroid lesions (mainly thyroid follicular cell hyperplasia), and thyroid

tumors.


In 1992, the US EPA reviewed the mancozeb database relevant to carcinogenicity and classified the pesticide as a “group B2 probable human carcinogen” or can cause cancer to humans. The DOH public health experts who did the Camocaan study also noted this US EPA data.


The DOH study showed that ethylenethiourea (ETU), a degradation product of mancozeb which is used in aerial spraying, was detected in the people's blood, in the air and soil samples.

The experts explained that ETU findings are a particular cause for their concern because it has been documented to produce “follicular and pallilary” thyroid cancers in rats and mice and “hepatocellular” cancer in mice. In humans, they said, there is evidence that thyroid and liver cancers can also be similarly induced.


Serious in its commitment to impose a temporary ban of aerial spraying, Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Environment Management Bureau Director Julian Amador also wrote Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association President Stephen Antig on August 20, requesting his organization to “ensure the temporary suspension of aerial spraying in areas close to residential communities or if not possible, provide adequate buffer zones to prevent drifting of fungicides/ pesticides.”


08 September 2009

Groups Give “Thumbs Up" to Non-Toxic and Climate-Friendly Industries

Quezon City. Civil society groups conveyed their unity to heightened efforts by the global community to promote strategies that will foster non-toxic, resource-efficient, climate-friendly and socially responsible businesses and industries.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) issued a joint statement as delegates begin to converge in Pasay City for the International Conference on Green Industry in Asia that will take place from September 9 to 11.

The said conference is hosted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in collaboration with the UN Industrial Development Organization, UN Environment Program and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific.

“With the greening of the industries, we can expect the integration of prevention, precaution, substitution, life cycle analysis, zero waste and, very importantly, public participation as key elements in the design and production of healthier and safer products and services,” said Manny Calonzo of both the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA.

“In this era of toxic chemical economy and climate change, all stakeholders need to put their creative talents and resources together to ensure the necessary transition to clean production to conserve depleting resources and mitigate the impacts of a warming climate,” he said.

As defined by Clean Production Action (CPA), clean production is a way of designing products and manufacturing processes in harmony with natural ecological cycles. It aims to eliminate toxic wastes and inputs and ultimately promotes the judicious use of renewable energy and materials.

The EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA expressed high hopes that the conference will give due emphasis to easily and immediately implementable capacity building programs for decreased waste and toxic generation and increased resource efficiency by the industries.

The groups seek the adoption of zero waste as an essential strategy for resource conservation, toxic reduction and climate mitigation as it reduces the pressure on natural resource base, while preventing the formation of greenhouse gases in every step of the extraction, processing, shipment, consumption and disposal trail.

“We are confident that the delegates will be fully supportive of zero waste and support projects and technologies that will not weaken waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting as well as undermine materials recovery and recycling jobs,” the groups stated.

The green industry conference will feature a host of expert speakers, including L. Hunter Lovins who co-authored with Paul Hawken and Amory Lovins the book “Creating the Next Industrial Revolution: Natural Capitalism.”

Natural capitalism, as differentiated from traditional capitalism, recognizes and assigns monetary value to natural resources and ecosystem services that make all economic activities possible, and advocates resource productivity as solution to environmental loss.

“Natural capitalism also redesigns industry on biological models that result in zero waste, shifts the economy from episodic acquisition of goods to the continual flow of value and service, and prudently invests in sustaining and expanding existing stores of natural capital,” the book says.


07 September 2009

BOC Urged to Tighten Watch Over Toxic Christmas Imports

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog has exhorted the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to be vigilant against attempts by unscrupulous traders to import goods containing harmful chemicals with the onset of the “ber” months.

As part of its ongoing drive to protect consumers from toxic harm, the EcoWaste Coalition urged BOC Commissioner Napoleon Morales to tighten port controls to thwart the smuggling of popular but potentially dangerous Christmas products.

The EcoWaste Coalition sets its sights on the expected influx of children’s toys and related products from overseas as traders take advantage of increased holiday demand from importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers.

“We urge Commissioner Morales to go on full alert against the entry of imported children’s toys and articles that might expose young and susceptible consumers to harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury and other heavy metals,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We expect our customs inspectors, as frontliners in preventing the illegal trafficking of toxic and dangerous goods, to strictly enforce the requirements of the law,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition is specifically worried that recalled or banned children’s goods from other countries will find market access in the Philippines due to weak chemical safety regulations and lax customs surveillance.

Regulatory bodies in US and other countries have been issuing product safety alerts and recall orders to protect consumers from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death, including poisoning from lead and other chemical and biological hazards.

In July-August 2009, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued recall orders on China-manufactured action figure toys and sport balls due to violation of lead paint standard, instructing consumers to stop using the recalled products immediately.

The surface paints of the said toys were found to contain excessive levels of lead, violating the US federal lead paint standard.

“We hope that Commissioner Morales will initiate augmented port surveillance to ensure that only safe and non-hazardous toys are made available to Filipino children during the festive season,” Calonzo emphasized.

“Given our inadequate chemical safety rules, it will be a precautionary move on the part of the BOC if additional documents will be required from toy shippers, including verifiable documentary proof of safety and non-toxicity and complete product labeling of imported toys and children’s articles,” he further said.


Citizens from 45 Countries Weigh In on PGMA for Aerial Spraying Ban

Quezon City. “Stop the aerial spraying of agrochemicals in banana plantations.”

Thus wrote citizens from across the globe who today petitioned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to issue an Executive Order that will safeguard helpless rural poor communities in Mindanao from the toxic effects of aerial pesticide operations.

In an outpouring of concern, over 200 citizens and groups from 45 countries give their 'thumbs up' to grassroots opposition against unwanted exposure to harmful chemicals sprayed from low-flying aircraft by big banana plantations to control black sigatoka disease in cavendish bananas.

“In the spirit of global citizenship, we state our solidarity with the women and men of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Citizens Against Aerial Spraying) and many other people’s organizations from the various banana-growing provinces in southern Philippines who are asserting their inherent right not to be harmed by aerial pesticide operations,” the petitioners said.

“We laud them for coming together to halt a clear and present assault against their individual and collective rights not to be subjected to chemical exposure. We support them in their just quest to keep harmful chemicals away from their bodies, homes and farms,” reiterated the petitioners.

Among those who signed the petition were noted public interest scientists and advocates, including professor emeritus of chemistry and zero waste champion Dr. Paul Connett and citizen science advocate Dr. Joseph Parrish of USA, 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Yuyun Ismawati of Indonesia, pesticide activist Sarojeni Rengam of Malaysia, endosulfan ban crusader Jayakumar Chelaton of India, anti-DDT health expert Dr. Paul Saoke of Kenya, environmental epidemiologist Rico Euripidou of South Africa, and environmental justice advocate Jeffer Castelo Branco of Brazil.

Swedish environmental engineer Andreas Prevodnik told PGMA that “aerial spraying is an inaccurate method of applying pesticides onto crops. Many non-target areas are affected by spray drift. Allowing the continued use of this application method, is an efficient method of speeding up the degradation of health and ecosystems in the Philippines.”

“You now have the chance of making a difference for the future living conditions of your nation. A national ban of aerial pesticide applications may be one of your many decisions that future generations in the Philippines will be most grateful for,” Prevodnik pointed out.

In their petition, the concerned global citizens appealed to PGMA to take the cue from Health Secretary Duque who, along with the DOH Executive Committee, recommended a stop to the aerial spraying of pesticides.

“Now that the country’s number one public health agency has spoken, we respectfully urge you to issue without delay an Executive Order banning the agricultural practice of aerial spraying that will reflect and strengthen the position of the DOH Executive Committee,” the petition reads.

“We further urge you to use the power of your office to direct the banana industry to honor their corporate social responsibility and cooperate towards achieving the recommendations set out by the DOH in the greater interest of public health,” the petition concludes.

In the same petition, the global citizens commended Health Secretary Duque and the department’s Executive Committee for adopting the following recommendations as contained in a DOH-commissioned study that was undertaken by experts from the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology and the University of the Philippines - National Poison Management and Control Center:

1. Establish a health surveillance system to detect effects of chronic pesticide exposures.

2. Perform systematic and periodic monitoring of pesticide residues and metabolites in the environment and do remediation where necessary.

3. Develop and strengthen guidelines for protecting communities from pesticide contamination from plantations.

4. Stop the aerial spraying of pesticides in the light of the precautionary principle espoused by the Rio Declaration to which the Philippines is a signatory.

5. Shift to organic farming techniques to prevent harm to health and the environment that can result from acute and chronic pesticide exposures.

According to the petitioners, “such a policy based on prevention and precaution will surely contribute to the national implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) that aims to minimize and eliminate the harms caused by exposure to toxic substances.”