31 January 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Lauds Muntinlupa Ordinance to Curb “White Pollution”

Quezon City. The environmental advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition commended the Muntinlupa City Government for enacting a timely ordinance that intends to reduce “white pollution.”

“We laud the people and government of Muntinlupa City for initiating a vital step, which if effectively pursued, will help minimize 'white pollution' and contribute to environmental conservation and protection,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chairperson of Mother Earth Foundation and coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastics.

"White pollution" refers to the numerous problems associated with the unchecked use and disposal of plastic trash, including plastic bags, foam containers and other plastic materials that ruin the landscape, clog waterways, cause flashfloods, choke the oceans and produce toxic byproducts when burned.

“We congratulate them for caring for Mother Earth by banning plastic bags and other plastic disposables starting next year and by encouraging lifestyle change through the promotion of bayong and other ecological alternatives,” she said.

Muntinlupa City Ordinance 10-109, authored by Councilor Joselito Arevalo and approved by Mayor Aldrin San Pedro, prohibits the use of plastic bags as packing materials for dry goods, and as primary packing materials for wet goods such as fish, poultry and meat.

It likewise prohibits the use of Styrofoam/styrophor and other similar materials as containers for food, produce and other products, and bars business establishments from offering or selling plastic bags as primary or secondary packing materials for dry goods.

Violators will be fined P500 for the first offense, P1,000 for the second offense and P2,500 plus imprisonment of six months for the third offense.

The plastic ban will take effect on 18 January 2011 to give business establishments ample time to comply, while the city authorities conduct “massive information campaign” to educate the citizens and the business community.

“Muntinlupa City is now in the same league as Beijing, New Delhi, San Francisco and many other cities in China, India, USA and other countries that have enacted measures to curb plastic pollution,” Rei Panaligan, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, pointed out.

“Other local authorities in Metro Manila can take their cue from Muntinlupa City and adopt similar or even bolder measures to rid the surroundings of plastic trash,” he added.

The municipalities of Carmona, Cavite, Los Banos and Paete, Laguna and Lucban, Quezon have already imposed regulations and bans on plastic bags, the EcoWaste Coalition noted

“We hope that Muntinlupa City Ordinance 10-109 will succeed and inspire other local government units to lead the fight against 'white pollution' and unsustainable consumption,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

It will be recalled that the EcoWaste Coalition on 16 June 2009 petitioned the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NWSMC) to ban plastic bags “to stop the flow of plastic litter into the oceans from dumpsites, beaches and other sources.”

The petition was signed by more than 100 groups and individuals, including presidential candidates Councilor JC de los Reyes and environmentalist Nicanor Perlas.

In response, the NSWMC Technical Working Group drafted Resolution 30-2009 on 25 June 2009 that calls for the banning of thin film, single use plastic that has remained unsigned until today.

NSWMC Executive Director Gerardo V. Calderon told the EcoWaste Coalition in a letter dated 15 July 2009 that the signing of the said resolution has been deferred “to further assess the necessity and its implications to the plastic industry.”
Justify Full

29 January 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Presses DENR to Put Out Rules on Mercury Lamp Waste Disposal

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog today appealed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to issue concrete rules to ensure the environmentally-sound management of mercury lamp waste, a hazardous waste.

At a workshop on mercury sponsored by the EcoWaste Coalition, health and environmental advocates emphasized the urgency to impose stringent rules on the safe collection, treatment and disposal of lamp waste as the country shifts from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent
lamps (CFLs).

As announced by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the 2008 Philippine Energy Summit, the Philippines will phase out inefficient incandescent bulbs by January 2010 and replace them with energy-efficient CFLs that typically contain from 1 to 25 milligrams of mercury, a highly toxic metal.

“We are deeply concerned with the massive switch to mercury lamps for energy efficiency that is not matched with adequate consumer education on toxic risks and a functional system for managing lamp waste, especially among residential and commercial users, to prevent adverse health and environmental impacts,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

“The widespread practice of tossing broken or spent mercury lamps in regular domestic waste stream, as if they were ordinary discards, and their recycling in uncontrolled conditions can expose informal recyclers and their communities to mercury,” he added.

At the workshop, Dr. Lynn Panganiban, Head of the UP National Poison Management and Control Center, explained that mercury exposure occurs when the pollutant makes direct contact with a person via one or more routes of exposure such as air inhalation, food consumption, water intake and skin absorption, stressing that it is necessary to consider the necessary sequence of events from the pollutant source to its final health effects.

Mrs. Angelita Brabante, chief of the chemicals management section of the Environmental Management Bureau, also described mercury and mercury compounds as toxic to aquatic life even at low concentrations and that the inhalation of mercury vapors and the ingestion of methylated forms of mercury can cause neurological disorders as cited in the DENR Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds.

To emphasize the urgency of halting the improper disposal of mercury lamp waste, youth members of the EcoWaste Coalition wore headgears made of mock linear and compact fluorescent lamps with warning labels that say “Dump Not” and “Burn Not”.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited government data on mercury lamp waste disposal showing that 88% of households, 77% of commercial establishments and 33% of hospitals disposed their end-of-life mercury lamps as domestic waste.

Waste containing toxic constituents such as mercury should not be mixed with regular waste and should be separated and subjected to appropriate hazardous treatment and disposal, consistent with Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act) and Republic Act 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act).

A study by the Mercury Policy Project in 2009 and co-released in Manila by Ban Toxics, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the EcoWaste Coalition showed that the burning of mercury-added products in waste such as mercury lamps emits upwards of 200 tons of mercury in the atmosphere annually.

-end-

Additional Information:

EcoWaste Coalition’s practical steps for safely managing mercury lamp waste are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 January 2010

Citizens’ Coalition to Ask Presidential Contenders to Explain their Green Agenda

Quezon City. Over 100 civil society leaders today announced their plan to ask presidential wannabes running in the 2010 polls to disclose their positions and solutions to burning waste, climate change and chemical safety issues facing the nation.

The EcoWaste Coalition in a resolution unanimously adopted at its 10th General Assembly held at the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus resolved to launch a Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) that will find out and analyze the “greenness” of the 10 presidential candidates.

The waste and pollution watchdog carried out similar surveys, along with Greenpeace and other allies, during the elections in 2004 and 2007 where the group also asked the politicos and political parties to prevent and reduce their campaign trash.

“It is high time to raise the bar of disclosure and debate about the candidates’ green agenda that can guide the electorate in choosing new leaders who will show the way towards a clean and sustainable future,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is not enough for the candidates to profess their concern for the environment. Voters need to know where the candidates stand on key challenges, as well as their plans and respective track records in the environmental field. It is imperative for the public to ask these questions and for the candidates to respond truthfully,” he explained.

Survey forms will be sent to all presidential candidates, namely ex-President Joseph Estrada, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Senators Noynoy Aquino, Dick Gordon, Jamby Madrigal and Manny Villar, Jr., Olongapo City Councilor JC de los Reyes, environmentalist Nicky Perlas, evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva and financial consultant Vetallano Acosta.

The questions will delve on various environmental issues of prime interest to communities and social sectors, including zero waste, water protection, climate change mitigation, chemical safety, ecological agriculture and renewable energy.

The answers of the respondents will be analyzed and graded from “green to gray” by a panel of evaluators composed of non-partisan environmentalists.

The survey results, to be divulged sequentially per issue in the run up to the national and local elections on 10 May 2010, are expected to generate information that will assist voters to make informed “green” choices.

“We hope that the candidates will cooperate fully, respond to the survey promptly, and take this opportunity to communicate to the electorate their environmental vision and platform of action,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

In the same General Assembly, the EcoWaste Coalition also resolved to campaign for policies and measures that will promote Zero Waste as a climate mitigation strategy; close, clean up and rehabilitate the Payatas dumpsite; curb chemical pollution from the rising volume of e-waste; and eliminate lead in household paints.

26 January 2010

Commit to Zero Waste, Presidentiables Urged


Quezon City. This is the united call of green groups under the EcoWaste Coalition as they converge this morning at the gate of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to mark the 9th anniversary of the signing of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

The groups urged the 10 presidential aspirants running in the 2010 polls as well as the National Solid Waste Management Commission, which is headed by the DENR, to lead the country out of wastefulness by putting into action a national strategy based on Zero Waste.

Zero Waste seeks to eliminate wasting and ensure the full and beneficial use of resources in order to restore ecological balance and provide for the needs of all people, the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

The combined and creative application of waste prevention, reduction, segregation at source, reusing, recycling and composting are basic features of ecological waste management - a key component of a Zero Waste strategy.

To emphasize their message, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers wore masks of the 10 presidential hopefuls (ex-President Estrada, Senators Aquino, Gordon, Madrigal and Villar, ex-Defense Secretary Teodoro, Councilor de los Reyes, environmentalist Perlas, evangelist Villanueva and consultant Acosta) while holding placards that say “Zero Waste: panata ko ipatutupad ko” and “I pledge to implement Zero Waste.”

“We hope that the next President will prioritize the enforcement of R.A. 9003, inspire the nation to embrace Zero Waste and halt the wasteful, climate-damaging and costly practice of littering, dumping and burning discards,” Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste

Coalition, said in a statement.

“The next President should see to it that the 1,234 dumpsites all over the country will be closed, cleaned up, rehabilitated and replaced with community-centered ecology centers or Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs),” added Romy Hidalgo, head of the Coalition’s Task Force on Dumps/Landfills.

The EcoWaste Coalition lamented the present garbage and waste situation in the country, citing the following deplorable facts and figures:

  • Low public awareness of RA 9003 at 27% (based on Greenpeace/SWS survey during the last quarter of 2007)
  • Continued violation of dump closure provisions of RA 9003 (according to the NSWMC’s fourth quarter of 2009 data, there are 838 open dumps and 396 controlled dumps operating in the country)
  • Slow progress in establishing community-based materials recovery facilities or MRFs (according to the NSWMC’s fourth quarter of 2009 data, there are 6,141 MRFs serving 6,744 barangays out of country’s 42,000 barangays)
  • Low compliance to the required segregation of discards at the point of generation.
  • Unacceptable siting of “sanitary” landfills in watersheds and protected areas, such as the San Mateo landfill in Marikina and the Ternate landfill in Mt. Palay-Palay in Cavite.
  • Poor performance of the NSWMC and the local government units in stopping acts explicitly prohibited in the law, such as littering, open burning, open dumping, construction of dumps in environmentally critical areas, and the manufacture, distribution, use or importation of non-environmentally acceptable products and services.
The EcoWaste Coalition further urged the 10 presidential aspirants to champion and ensure funding for a National Ecological Solid Waste Management System (NESWMS) anchored on waste prevention, volume and toxicity elimination or reduction, segregation at source, reusing, recycling and composting, and not on costly and polluting landfills and incinerators.


EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846
ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

22 January 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Seeks Government Action on E-Waste

Quezon City. Following a recent field investigation at the Pier 18 dumpsite, the EcoWaste Coalition today pressed government regulators to act with urgency to avert a full-blown chemical and humanitarian crisis due to the improper disposal and recycling of electronic waste.

In a letter sent today to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) and the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), the EcoWaste Coalition alerted the agencies on the unchecked disposal of electronic waste in the municipal waste stream.

During their field visits on January 20-21, 2010, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers found waste reclaimers foraging mixed garbage to retrieve valuable recyclable materials such as discarded linear and compact fluorescent lamps, computer circuit boards and other electrical and electronic items, oblivious to the chemical risks and hazards.

“Our investigation confirms the apparent lack of regulation and system that will curb the improper disposal of e-waste and the perilous recycling taking place in dumpsites and junkshops,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

Discarded electrical and electronic devices, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, contain several hundred materials, including many toxic and hazardous chemicals like beryllium, cadmium, lead, mercury, brominated flame retardants and polychlorinated biphenyls and should not be combined with regular waste.

Under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, household hazardous discards such as consumer electronics (cell phones, computers etc.), white goods (stoves, refrigerators, air-conditioners, TVs etc.), bulbs and batteries are classified as “special waste” that should be handled separately from other residential and commercial wastes.

“These toxic and hazardous chemicals in e-waste can endanger the health of informal recyclers and the people around them as well as contaminate the environment with toxic pollutants,” Dizon added.

“We are primarily worried about the exposure of children and pregnant and lactating women to heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury from recycling e-waste, which are extremely toxic even at low levels of exposure,” he emphasized.

Aside from the physical dismantling and recovery of recyclable components of e-waste, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers also noted with concern the polluting practice of burning electrical cables or cords to retrieve precious metal wires.

The EcoWaste Coalition has proposed to the DENR-EMB and the NSWMC to initiate a participatory process that will look at electronic and electrical products throughout their life cycle, from manufacture to disposal, and craft essential policies and solutions towards chemical safety and environmental health.

The waste and pollution watchdog also urged the agencies to look at the importation of near-end-of-life electrical and electronic products, which are then sold in so-called surplus stores, that ultimately add to the growing volume of e-waste nationwide.

The EcoWaste Coalition has put forward several policy options, including the enforcement of mandatory waste segregation at source, public information on the risks and hazards of e-waste disposal and recycling, the phase out of harmful substances in electrical and electronic products, the implementation of extended producer responsibility and the imposition of stricter rules to prevent the dumping of near-end-of-life and end-of-life electrical and electronic products into the country.


EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846
ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

20 January 2010

Valenzuela Councilor Files Ordinance Banning Cyanide-Laden Silver Jewelry Cleaners

Quezon City. A youth member of the Valenzuela City Council has proposed an ordinance, which, if enacted, would ban and penalize the sale of silver jewelry cleaners containing cyanide, a highly toxic substance.

Councilor Ricmar C. Enriquez has proposed City Ordinance 2009-109 to address the adverse health and environmental impacts associated with the use of cyanide-laced cleaning solutions.

Enriquez, who is also the President of the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation of Valenzuela City, explained that the sale of cyanide-containing silver cleaners is “patently unlawful and must be stopped or abated.”

Enriquez observed that the toxic cleaning agent “is being sold in public like any harmless goods, creating a mindset among the people, particularly the youth, that it is a safe and ordinary item.”

Speaking at the hearing conducted yesterday by Councilor Ignacio G. Santiago,Jr. Chairman, Committee on Ordinances and Legal Matters, the delegation from the EcoWaste Coalition expressed its hope that the ordinance will be eventually passed and enforced “to address a scourge of our times: the accidental or suicidal ingestion of poisonous silver jewelry cleaners.”

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-governmental group promoting chemical safety, is campaigning for the elimination of silver jewelry cleaners laced with cyanide and other chemicals of concern such as thiourea and the promotion of safe and eco-friendly substitutes.

“We commend Coun. Enriquez for filing the ordinance as we urge the City Council to adopt without delay this timely precautionary policy that can avert cyanide poisoning from accidental and suicidal intake of highly toxic silver jewelry cleaning agents, especially by demoralized and downtrodden individuals,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

At the insistence of the EcoWaste Coalition, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau had some samples of silver jewelry cleaners tested last year that confirmed “high content of cyanide, which is fatal to humans when ingested.”

The DENR, in a letter sent to the EcoWaste Coalition and to the Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health, said that the Department has already given the directives for the confiscation of these jewelry cleaners pursuant to DENR Administrative Order No. 1997-39, Chemical Control Order for Cyanide and Cyanide Compounds.

“The risk that these jewelry cleaners containing cyanide pose to public health is extremely high, as evident in the reported casualties, thus, its ban will be strictly enforced,” the DENR-EMB letter said.

At the Committee hearing, the EcoWaste Coalition further proposed the banning of silver cleaners containing thiourea, another toxic chemical that is classified as a probable human carcinogen.

Thiourea is a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen. Exposure to thiourea may cause irreversible effects, affect fertility, cause allergic skin reaction, skin ulcers and liver damage, and may be fatal if swallowed.

If approved, violators caught selling, acquiring or possessing cyanide-containing silver cleaners in Valenzuela City shall be fined not less than P5,000 and/or imprisoned for not less than six months at the discretion of the Court.

19 January 2010

EcoWaste Coalition mourns death of teenage scavenger as it seeks government action to avert dumpsite injuries and deaths

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog expressed its grief over the gruesome death of waste reclaimer Robin Bayaborda, 14, in a fatal accident on Friday, January 15, in Pier 18 located at Sitio Damayan, Barangay 105, Tondo, Manila.

Ramona Bayaborda, elder sister of Robin, told EcoWaste Coalition volunteers who went to the site last Saturday that her brother was smashed to death by the compactor blades of an incoming Leonel garbage truck as he hitched a ride at the back of the vehicle early Friday morning.

Robin, an out-of-school youth who lived and worked in Pier 18, a transfer station for Manila’s garbage, had been reclaiming recyclables in the area for the last six years, earning a measly 70-100 pesos daily which he would give to his mother.

His body lies in state at a makeshift funeral hut near the family’s home inside Pier 18.

“We mourn young Robin's sad and grisly demise while trying to eke out a living for his family. His death should not be in vain and should justly spur action that will put an end to countless dumpsite-related injuries and deaths,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The dangers of scavenging are a glaring reality for many Filipinos engaged in wastepicking, but amid walloping poverty, it is not likely to be discontinued soon. In the face of this situation, measures must be taken to ensure the safety of wastepickers,” he added.

Robin’s death, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, should prompt short-term as well as long-term measures that will prevent and reduce the occupational risks and health hazards associated with reclaiming recyclables at trucks and dumps.

Such measures should include a formal dialogue with trash collection service providers and their drivers, waste reclaimers, local authorities and civil society groups to agree on practical arrangements that would avoid accidents involving garbage trucks, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The group also cited the need for seminars and workshops that will equip waste reclaimers with vital information and skills on occupational health, including preventive actions to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals.

As a long-term intervention aimed at providing them a safer and more decent livelihood, the EcoWaste Coalition is pressing for Zero Waste and the priority hiring of wastepickers in community Materials Recovery Facilities as well as in public and private recycling enterprises, where their vast experience and skills in sorting waste resources would be an asset.

Wastepickers are efficient recyclers and contribute tremendously to the reduction of emissions that drive climate change. By retrieving recyclables from bins, trucks and dumps, wastepickers ensure that the extraction and processing of natural raw materials are lessened.

However, a 2004 research by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Mother Earth Foundation, done in collaboration with groups in Cambodia and India, showed wastepickers as the most vulnerably placed in terms of occupational and health risks in the entire recycling chain.

According to their study, occupational accidents routinely occur in waste dumps. They range in severity from cuts and lacerations caused by broken glasses and other sharp objects, to wastepickers being crushed under garbage trucks.

“Dumpsite injuries and deaths have been happening for the longest time in Pier 18 and in other waste disposal facilities. It’s high time society responded in a constructive way and made the valuable jobs of waste reclaimers safer, more eco-friendly, and economically more beneficial to them,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The EcoWaste Coalition recalled that in December 2009, a 10-wheeler truck rammed through the Rodriguez dumpsite in Rizal, killing five scavengers, including a pregnant woman, whose bones and skulls were reportedly crashed after being rolled over by the wayward truck.

17 January 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Government to Test and Ban Tainted Children’s Toys

Quezon City. Following moves by American and Canadian regulators, the chemicals watchdog EcoWaste Coalition today urged the authorities to immediately test and recall toys containing toxic metals to safeguard children’s health.

“We appeal to Secretaries Cabral, Favila and Quinto to take concerted steps against toxic metals such as cadmium and lead in popular consumer products such as toys,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, in a common plea to the health, trade and environment departments.

“We urge them to check on toys being sold in stores and sidewalks and assure the public that none of the toys tainted with cadmium, lead and other chemicals of concern such as phthalates are being sold in the market,” he added.

“It is the responsibility of the state as well as the toy manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to keep these poisons out of children’s toys and guarantee the safety of young consumers,” he emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition requested the three Secretaries to act swiftly for children’s health and safety after regulatory agencies in Canada and US recently warned against the presence of excessive levels of toxic metals in some children’s jewelry products that are being offered in toy stores.

Filipino children, the group said, can be exposed to cadmium, lead and other harmful substances by biting, chewing, sucking or accidental eating of toxic-laden toys.

Health Canada on January 15 advised consumers that excessively high levels of lead, a neurotoxin, have been found in some inexpensive children's jewelry products sold in the country.

While the US Consumer Product Safety Commission initiated a formal investigation on the presence of cadmium, a known human carcinogen, in children’s jewelry following the release of a shocking report by the Associated Press (AP) last January 11.

AP reported dangerous levels of cadmium in some of the 103 pieces of low-cost children’s jewelry that it sent for laboratory testing, including bracelets, pendants and trinkets imported from China and sold in major retail stores in US.

The report indicated that cadmium is being used by some toy manufacturers as a substitute for lead after US Congress in 2008 barred its use in children’s products such as toys and jewelry, despite cadmium being more toxic than lead.

The AP also reported that cadmium is so toxic that “if the charms were waste from manufacturing” it would qualify as hazardous waste.

Cadmium, a heavy metal used as a stabilizer in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and in coatings and pigments in plastic and paint, is carcinogenic and has been linked to lung, kidney and intestinal
ailments, weakened bones, developmental effects, learning disabilities and permanent IQ loss.

Acute toxicity from the intake of elevated levels of cadmium can lead to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and even death The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has listed cadmium in the country’s First Priority Chemicals List that has to be regulated to prevent and reduce serious risks to public health, workplace and the environment.

The DENR has so far issued four Chemical Control Orders (CCOs) – for asbestos, cyanide, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - out of the first set of 28 priority chemicals.


14 January 2010

Santo Niño Revelers Urged to Cut Fiesta Garbage for Children’s Health

Quezon City. Fearing a repeat of the wasteful Quiapo fiesta, the EcoWaste Coalition urged communities that will mark the popular Feast of the Santo Niño this week to pay attention to preventing and reducing their fiesta garbage.

Data secured by the EcoWaste Coalition from Manila’s Department of Public Services showed that over 140 tons of trash were collected in the aftermath of the Feast of the Black Nazarene at Luneta and adjacent areas, and in barangays surrounding the Quiapo Church.

“We hope that the joyful celebration in Pandacan, Tondo and many other places in honor of the Child Jesus will instill ecological concern and responsibility among the citizens and seek ways to cut trash to the minimum level,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

The Feast of Santo Niño is widely observed in the country as a special day when believers pray to the Child Jesus for divine intercession to obtain various favors such as the healing of grave ailments, deliverance from dangers and the fulfillment of life's necessities.

“By keeping the festive celebration simple and eco-friendly, we avoid wasting material and financial resources and also prevent chemical pollutants from firecrackers, fireworks and discards from posing health and environmental hazards to vulnerable populations, especially the children,” he further said.

In Pandacan and Tondo, for example, seemingly endless banderitas line the crowded streets and alleys, while “happy fiesta” banners from local and national politicians running for 2010 polls compete for attention.

The EcoWaste Coalition pleaded with fiesta organizers and sponsors “not to litter the sky” with buntings, banners and balloons, which will end up trashing the communities and the oceans.

“Fiesta banners, buntings and balloons have become environmental nuisances as the sky is transformed into an instant dump for single-use plastic bags, packaging scraps, commercial advertisements and political propaganda materials,” Calonzo observed.

If buntings cannot be avoided, the EcoWaste Coalition urged revelers to fashion them out of alternative materials such as tailoring and garment factory scraps that can be washed, stored and reused for other celebrations.

The EcoWaste Coalition also cautioned the public against dumping or burning plastic buntings, banners and other fiesta discards, as this will cause further environmental degradation and pollution.

Throwing fiesta garbage in storm drains and waterways can cause flooding by blocking water paths, while burning them will discharge harmful pollutants such as dioxins that can cause a range of serious health problems including cancer, the group emphasized.

“Keeping our fiestas clean and toxic-free is one concrete way of preventing environment-related diseases from attacking helpless children as well as developing fetuses,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The EcoWaste Coalition said that poor sanitation and hygiene, exposure to harmful chemicals and changing weather patterns can cause adverse health impacts, particularly for young children.

13 January 2010

Sec. Cabral Urged to Protect Pinoy Kids from Environmental Health Hazards

Quezon City. A coalition of public health and environmental groups today urged newly appointed Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral to strengthen government’s policies and initiatives that will safeguard Filipino children, including developing fetuses, from environmental health hazards.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in a press release, welcomed the appointment of Dr. Cabral, a cardiologist and clinical pharmacologist, as Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) and specifically requested her to strengthen the department’s environmental health agenda and program.

The EcoWaste Coalition pleaded for enhanced action on environmental health as the nation celebrates the Feast of the Santo Niño on January 18, a special day dedicated for all children.

“We hope that Dr. Cabral will prioritize the promotion of a safe, healthy and clean environment to protect the fetus and the child from environmental hazards that can adversely affect their health and development. Let this be her legacy to the Filipino children,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Environmental health, as explained by the World Health Organization (WHO), addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviors.

Citing information from WHO, the EcoWaste Coalition said that more than three million children below five years old from around the world, including the Philippines, die yearly due to preventable environment-related diseases.

According to WHO, the increased production, use and movement of harmful chemicals, unsafe disposal of hazardous waste, growing air and water pollution, poor access to sanitation and hygiene, unexpected effects of some new technologies and the effects of climate change can cause significant negative health impacts.

As a group promoting the safety of consumers from chemical hazards, the EcoWaste Coalition urged Sec. Cabral to bare her plans on how children can be protected from being exposed to harmful chemicals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and other toxic metals, dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants, bisphenol A, phthalates and other chemicals of concern.

In particular, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed its hope that Sec. Cabral will use the powers of her office to educate policy makers and sway paint manufacturers into eliminating lead paints, a major environmental health hazard facing the Filipino children.

The EcoWaste Coalition also urged Sec. Cabral to review and strengthen DOH Administrative Order 32, Series of 2007, or the “Regulations on the Issuance of a License to Operate to Companies that Manufacture, Import or Distribute Toys for the Philippine Market,” so that only safe and adequately labeled toys will be sold in the market.

This early, the EcoWaste Coalition has asked Sec. Cabral to take tough action that will effectively ban piccolo and other firecrackers that have been blamed for the rise of firecracker-related injuries during the New Year revelry.

Also, as a group that is addressing the threats posed by climate change, the EcoWaste Coalition called on Sec. Cabral to initiate a participatory process that will craft a comprehensive national mitigation program to combat the anticipated increase in diseases due to worsening air pollution, further degradation of ecosystems and more frequent natural disasters.

10 January 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Laments Wastefulness at Quiapo Fiesta

Quezon. An advocate for ecological responsibility decried the widespread littering that again marked the widely popular celebration last Saturday of the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

“We are saddened by the trashing of Luneta and Quiapo during the reenactment of ‘Translacion’ as devotees fulfilled their religious vows,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

The 403rd celebration of the “Traslacion” or the transfer of the venerated image of the Black Nazarene from Recoletos Church in Intramuros to Quiapo attracted some two million devotees according to police estimates.

“The wastefulness disrespects the Black Nazarene whom believers beseech for mercy, healing and relief from hardships and ailments that are made worse by polluted surroundings,” he said.

On the spot reports from EcoWaste volunteers showed a surge in litter in Quirino grandstand in Luneta where an overnight vigil was held, along the processional route and in the communities surrounding the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

At the post-procession cleanup organized by the EcoWaste Coalition in Plaza Miranda that lasted from 10:30 pm -12:30 am, volunteers moaned about the excessive fiesta garbage consisting mostly of plastic bags, Styrofoam, soiled paper, product packaging and food leftovers.

Among those who took part were Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth Foundation, Atty. Ron Gutierrez of Upholding Life and Nature, Anne Larracas of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Manila Councilor Numero Uno Lim and several volunteers from the EcoWaste Coalition and the Department of Public Services of the city of Manila.

Volunteers also saw mounds of garbage, mostly plastic bags and Styrofoam, in street corners, gutters and even in storm drains after the festivities have quieted down.

The EcoWaste Coalition will present the photos taken during the Quiapo fiesta to the National Solid Waste Management Commission to urge the inter-agency body led by the Environment Department to a) speed up the phase out of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging materials, and b) consider Quiapo as a special area for the enforcement of RA 9003 or the
Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, given the national as well as global significance of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, which is a major news story and tourism event

“The repeat of the much-publicized littering in last year’s fiesta only reinforces the need to enhance and sustain our advocacy to green the faithful devotion to the Black Nazarene,” Calonzo said.

“As ‘katiwala’ or ‘steward’ of God’s creation, we hope that the devotees will seek to honor and glorify the Black Nazarene in a worshipful and ecological manner,” he said.

“As caretakers of Mother Earth, we need to celebrate our faith and culture without causing further stress and degradation to our fragile environment amid the unfolding climate crisis,” he further said.

While the EcoWaste Coalition finds the widespread littering in Luneta and Quiapo a let down, the group lauded the waste pickers for their valuable service for the environment.

Calonzo said the waste pickers did an amazing work by retrieving recyclables, such as carton boxes, glass beverage bottles, and plastic cups and bottles, and in preventing these resources from being dumped, burned and wasted, while generating income to support their families.

EcoWaste volunteers learned from waste pickers in Luneta that they can sell the plastic cups and bottles at ten pesos per kilo, and the carton boxes at five pesos per kilo.

To cut wasting at the Quiapo fiesta, the EcoWaste Coalition exhorted the devotees to bear in mind the four basic steps outlined by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin for a “zero waste celebration of life.”

These are: 1) minimize the creation of waste by using as few resources as possible at the various events, 2) avoid using plastic and disposable items, 3) separate discards into biodegradable and non-biodegradable, and 4) put them into their proper containers to facilitate recycling and make the work of the cleaners and collectors simpler.

08 January 2010

Black Nazarene Devotees as Stewards of God’s Creation

Manila. An environmental advocacy group today reiterated its plea for ecological responsibility as the police authorities projected a huge turnout of devotees tomorrow for the feast of the Black Nazarene.

The EcoWaste Coalition made its last-minute pitch for a clean and safe celebration after the chief of the Manila Police District Rodolfo Magtibay estimated a mammoth-crowd of 3.5 million devotees joining the procession to carry out their religious vows.

“We hope that the Black Nazarene celebration this year will be remembered for the united effort of the devotees to take care of the surroundings, and not for the massive surge in litter in the streets of Manila,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We call on all the devotees to break new ground in the ecological expression of our faith that can serve as a great inspiration for the whole nation,” he said.

“An eco-friendly affirmation of our faith to the Black Nazarene is very much in line with the theme of the celebration this year,” he added.

“Tunay na deboto, matuwid at masunuring katiwala ng Poong Hesus Nazareno” is the theme of the 403rd celebration of the “Traslacion” or the transfer of the revered image of the Black Nazarene from Recoletos Church in Intramuros to the present Quiapo Church.

“As ‘katiwala’ or ‘steward’ of God’s creation, we hope that the devotees will seek to honor and glorify the Black Nazarene in a worshipful instead of wasteful manner,” Calonzo said.

“As caretakers of Mother Earth, let us celebrate our faith without causing further stress and degradation to our fragile environment,” he further said.

To cut wasting at the Quiapo fiesta, the EcoWaste Coalition exhorted the devotees to bear in mind the four basic steps outlined by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin for a “zero waste celebration of life.”

These are: 1) minimize the creation of waste by using as few resources as possible at the various events, 2) avoid using plastic and disposable items, 3) separate discards into biodegradable and non-biodegradable, and 4) put them into their proper containers to facilitate recycling and make the work of the cleaners and collectors simpler.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed hope that the voters’ education to be conducted for the Black Nazarene devotees at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta tonight will also touch on citizens’ responsibility to care and protect the environment in the May 2010 polls.

07 January 2010

Politicians Urged Not to Use Black Nazarene Feast to Campaign for 2010 Polls

Manila. Politicians that are hoping to use the popular feast of the Black Nazarene to gain political mileage should better think twice or draw the public ire for their opportunist political practice.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group that is campaigning for eco-friendly 2010 polls, spoke against thinly veiled political propaganda as millions of devotees, many of whom are citizens of voting age, prepare to gather en masse in Quiapo to perform their
religious vows.

“We request all well-meaning politicians, especially those seeking elective posts in May 2010, to spare the Feast of the Black Nazarene of blatant self-promotion and abstain from putting up ‘happy fiesta’ tarpaulin banners,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“These banners are totally unnecessary and only end up as ugly trash if not duly removed, reused or recycled,” he added.

With pilgrims expected to arrive in record numbers, the Quiapo district is now festooned with brightly colored tarpaulins containing “happy fiesta” greetings from an assortment of politicians.

Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio, Rector and Parish Priest of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, had earlier reminded politicians not to use the feast for political campaigning.

“Medyo sensitive po tayo dito at sinasabi rin ng ating mahal na Cardinal sana itong kapistahan ng Poong Nazareno ay hindi magamit sa pulitika,” Msgr. Ignacio said in a televised interview.

Instead of wasting resources for out of place political propaganda, the EcoWaste Coalition asked politicians to quietly pay homage to the greatly revered Black Nazarene and desist from using the feast to satisfy political ends.

Politicians who are really keen to offer their services for the good of the people and the environment can do more than hanging “happy fiesta” banners, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

According to the group, politicians can help in post-fiesta cleanup of littered streets, take down unsightly buntings and banners, support barangay-level enforcement of ecological solid waste
management and contribute to the long-term rehabilitation and development of the Quiapo district.

-end-

Here's the link to the TV interview with Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oPSgtKC1P8&feature=player_embedded

04 January 2010

Devotees Urged to Honor the Black Nazarene with a Clean and Safe Fiesta

Manila. The likelihood of Quiapo streets being carpeted again with trash as the most popular religious feast in honor of the Black Nazarene is celebrated on January 9 prompted a waste and
pollution watchdog to appeal anew to pious devotees to go “green” this year.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, pleaded with the millions of devotees who are expected to attend the Eucharistic celebrations and the massive procession of the greatly revered image to take the lead in keeping the streets litter-free.

The feast, now on its 403rd year, will see the Black Nazarene being brought to the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta this Friday for an overnight vigil. A procession of the gilded carriage bearing the icon will commence from there on Saturday morning to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

“We hope that the large-scale breach of R.A. 9003 that tainted the celebration last year will not happen again. Our pious devotion to the Black Nazarene merits no less than a clean and safe fiesta for all,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the first law signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she took over the presidency, explicitly bans littering, an offense punishable by a fine of 300 to 1,000 pesos or 1 to 15-day community service or both.

Citing information from Manila’s Department of Public Service, the EcoWaste Coalition reported that in 2009 some 19 trucks were required to clear affected streets, especially in Quiapo, of fiesta trash estimated at 124 tons.

“The wastefulness of the Quiapo fiesta dishonors the Black Nazarene to whom many Filipinos come begging for deliverance and healing, especially from poverty and ailments that could have been aggravated by unhealthy environment,” Calonzo said.

“We trust that the clergy and the laity, led by the Hijos del Señor Nazareno, will exercise responsible stewardship over the environment as the great feast is observed,” he added.

The most littered items during the 2009 feast that were mostly left lying in street gutters and corners were bamboo skewers, cigarette butts, plastic bottles and drinking cups, plastic bags, Styrofoam containers and food leftovers.

To keep the Quiapo fiesta litter-free, the EcoWaste Coalition is appealing to every chapter of Hijos del Señor Nazareno to assign a person or team to promote and ensure devotees’ cooperation for an eco-friendly devotion.

The EcoWaste Coalition is further appealing to the office of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim to deploy more waste and sanitation workers along the processional route and also to provide more portable toilets for the convenience of the devotees and other fiesta visitors.

Here is the list of “green tips” that the EcoWaste Coalition has developed to assist Black Nazarene devotees in fulfilling and strengthening their religious vows with the well-being of Mother Earth in mind:

1. Refrain from smoking, or better still quit for keeps, to avoid butt litter and serious tobacco-related diseases that kill 10 Filipinos every hour. You also protect other people from getting sick by not exposing them to toxins from secondhand smoke.

2. If you smoke, please don’t toss butts on the ground. Cigarette filters are non-biodegradable and they contain toxic chemicals that can leach into the environment.

3. If you chew gum, do put it in a bin after you’re done with it. If there is no bin close by, put the spent chewing gum back into the wrapper and wait until you see a bin. Don’t let barefoot devotees step on your chewing gum waste.

4. Please don’t spit on walls, sidewalks and streets. Spitting in public presents a serious health risk, especially to children who are more prone to disease-causing germs and bacteria.

5. Please do not urinate on the street. Urinating in public is unhygienic and poses social, health and environmental problems.

6. Return used food and beverage containers to the vendors and do not litter them anywhere. The plastic bag for the thirst-quenching “palamig,” for example, can clog the storm drains and later cause flooding in Quiapo.

7. Give back to the vendors used bamboo skewers for barbecue, grilled corn-on-the-cob, fried banana, fishball and kikiam as devotees can accidentally step on thoughtlessly thrown sticks and cause foot injuries.

8. Put your discards into the designated bins. Quiapo (and the whole country for that matter) is NOT a dumpsite. Let us keep the shrine of the Black Nazarene, including the route of the procession, litter-free.

9. If you are planning to bring home something for the kids, reduce plastic waste by bringing a reusable carry bag with you for the fruits, “kakanin” and other “pasalubong” that are plentiful in Quiapo.

03 January 2010

A Green Wish List for 2010 Presidential Aspirants Feast of the Epiphany

Quezon City. Green advocates are wrapping up the festive holidays with a “ green wish list” that will be sent to all presidential aspirants on the Epiphany – the end of the Christmas season - to urge them to offer environmental policies, deeds and actions as their “gifts” to the Filipino nation.

The Epiphany, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, is a fitting time for citizens to ask those seeking to lead the highest political office for “gifts” that will address the ecological crisis facing the country. Just as the Three Kings brought gifts to the Christ Child as acts of respect and adoration, the EcoWaste Coalition hopes that the presidential wannabes will grant its wish list and commit to green leadership and governance.

The waste and pollution watchdog drew ideas from over a dozen health and environmental advocates who replied to these questions just before we bade 2009 goodbye: how would you like presidential aspirants to conduct their campaigns?; what issues would you like them to include and prioritize in their electoral platforms?

Respondents include Arugaan/Save the Babies Coalition, Ban Toxics, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (COCAP), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Global Legal Action on Climate Change (GLACC-Cebu), Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP), Institute for Educational and Ecological Alternatives (IDEAS), Krusada sa Kalikasan, Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), November 17 Movement, Task Force Sierra Madre, Sherilyn Siy and Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez.

The informal survey via e-mail and text led to a “green wish list” that in some way mirrors our nation’s quest for ecological reforms. The list, which is a work in progress, is clustered into three
sections (electoral campaign strategies, priority environmental issues, and specific environmental action points).


I. ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIES

In terms of electoral campaign strategies, some respondents wished that all presidential candidates will:

a. publicly proclaim a commitment not to harm Mother Earth in the battle for voters’ support;

b. incorporate essential waste prevention and reduction techniques in the strategy to win votes;

c. desist from excessive spending even if expenses are supposedly paid for by friends and supporters;

d. refrain from using campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled such as confetti, buntings and balloons;

e. set zero tolerance policy on litter and trash in all campaign activities, ensuring that campaign venues are cleaned up after the event.; and

f. spare the trees, lamp posts, bridges and buses of campaign materials and stick to Comelec-designated common poster areas.

“We hope that all presidential bets will lead by example and insist on a national campaign strategy that will proactively curb wasteful practices and protect, not ruin, the environment,” said Manny Calonzo of EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA.

With regard to campaign finance, tobacco control advocate Dr. Maricar Limpin of FCAP wished that “candidates will not to accept campaign donations from industries, particularly from tobacco, oil and other companies so that they will not be beholden to their corporate interests.”


II. PRIORITY ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

In terms of issues, respondents felt that presidential candidates should come out strongly on vital issues such as climate change mitigation, public health improvement, disaster prevention and preparedness, reforestation, mining policy shift, clean renewable energy development, zero waste resource management, and chemicals policy reforms.

“Presidential wannabes need to be fully aware of the real threats posed by climate change on our way of life and our life support systems. What will be their priority measures to mitigate its impact? The public has to know,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of GLACC-Cebu.

For Rene Pineda of COCAP, presidential wannabes should stand by the Philippine Agenda 21 or PA21, our national agenda for sustainable development. “I have only one wish: the candidates should strictly adhere to and mandatorily comply with PA21 as this will address a good number of our nation’s predicaments.”

Other respondents emphasized the need for the recognition of rights-based approach to development that will, among others, respect the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains, oppose development aggression and ensure people’s participation in the whole development process.


III. SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION POINTS

In terms of specific action points, respondents listed several proposals that they hope the next President will prioritize during his/her first 100 days in office. These are:

a. close, cleanup and rehabilitate illegal dumpsites that the outgoing administration dismally failed to do despite oft-repeated pledge to enforce the ban on dumping;

b. adopt a Zero Waste national policy and action plan as a key strategy for climate change mitigation, resource conservation and sustainable livelihood and enterprise development;

c. phase out, ban or impose appropriate levies on plastic bags, styrofoam, and other environmentally problematic packaging materials that consume lots of energy to produce and create huge disposal problems;

d. strengthen the enforcement of the Clean Air Act, Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act and related laws, while ensuring adequate budget for their effective enforcement;

e. eliminate lead paints and implement stringent regulations that will get rid of lead, mercury, bisphenol A, phthalates, brominated flame retardants and other chemicals of concern in common consumer products;

f. implement an ecological and practical system for the management of mercury-containing waste lamps and other mercury-containing discards to avert pollution from indiscriminate disposal;

g. support lawmakers’ petition to cancel loan payments to Austria for decommissioned incinerators, and to act against other fraudulent, illegitimate and wasteful debts;

h. promote policies that will uphold and operationalize the principles of the public right-to-know, environmental justice, polluter pays, toxics use reduction and substitution

i. put a monetary value on resource conservation and protection and pollution prevention and reduction.

j. integrate the concepts of environmental harm and benefits in all aspects of decision-making, including and most importantly in economic decisions.

k. stop the deforestation of our remaining forests to cut greenhouse gas emissions, arrest biodiversity loss and prevent soil erosion and floods;

l. promote the passage of the Alternative People’s Mining Act and protect local communities and natural resources from large-scale, environmentally-destructive mining operations;

m. promote a switch to pesticide-free organic farming, refuse genetically-modified organisms and prohibit destructive practices such as the aerial application of agrochemicals;

n. protect breastmilk, the first complete and Zero Waste food, from the unethical marketing of breastmilk “substitutes”;

o. promote production and consumption of all the “Bahay Kubo” vegetables which are rich in calcium and other nutrients to cut importation of dairy foods that can cause allergy and asthma for lactose intolerant Pinoys;

p. fix the public transportation system to make it more efficient and up to global standards and make sidewalks wide to encourage people to walk, thus reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas releases;

q. ban firecrackers, fireworks as well as homemade pyrotechnic devices that harm humans, animals and the ecosystems

r. accord the environment with a full government agency devoted to resource protection and endow it with adequate financial resources to ensure a properly functioning agency

The EcoWaste Coalition hopes that all presidential candidates will walk their talk and set ambitious goals and targets to translate the above “green wish list” into action. There is no time to waste, and we hope to see progress on most, if not all, of these concerns and proposals in 2010, the Coalition emphasized.


Note: Epiphany is originally celebrated on the 12th day after Christmas, but is now celebrated on the first Sunday of the year.

01 January 2010

Bishop, Green Advocates Applaud Pope’s Call to “Protect Creation” for Authentic Peace

Quezon City. Environmentalists expressed support to Pope Benedict XVI’s plea for humanity to “protect creation” as a local prelate urged the faithful to heed the papal call for ecological awareness, responsibility and conversion.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez and the EcoWaste Coalition, in a press release, commended the Pope for his timely message on the occasion of the World Day of Peace today, the first day of January 2010, where he delved on the “ecological crisis” afflicting humanity.

In the same message, the Pope linked the increased hardship that many people across the globe are living through to “the negligence or refusal of many others to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment.”

“The Holy Father is reminding us about the critical health of Mother Earth and the need for every citizen and institution of this planet to honor our covenant with the Divine Creator by doing our shared task as stewards of His creation,” said Bishop Iñiguez who also chairs the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Bishop Iñiguez reiterated the Pope’s call for a review of current “unsustainable” lifestyle patterns and choices, including production and consumption models, amid obvious signs of environmental degradation in the country such as the stinking dumpsites, dying rivers, thinning forests, changing climate and catastrophic natural disasters.

“Let us strengthen our communion as people of God and join hands in protecting the environment by embracing the required personal as well as institutional reforms marked by profound love and respect for nature,” stated Bishop Iñiguez.

“Let us heed the Pope’s call and work in solidarity to ensure that the present and future generations will have access to a bountiful and non-toxic life,” the bishop added.

Echoing the Pope’s call “to promote a greater sense of ecological responsibility,” the EcoWaste Coalition reaffirmed its commitment to addressing threats to environmental integrity and public health.

“We commit to doing our bit for environmental awareness, action and justice, for chemical safety and for sustainability, particularly on pressing waste and pollution issues that are putting the health and safety of our communities at risk,” said Romy Hidalgo, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“By conserving and protecting our ecosystems, we enhance the dignity of every Filipino family and create a better quality of life for all children of this generation and next,” added Hidalgo who is also an active member of the Ecology Ministry, Diocese of Caloocan.

In his message, the Pope pointed out that “the current pace of environmental exploitation is seriously endangering the supply of certain natural resources not only for the present generation, but above all for generations yet to come.”

“To protect the environment, and to safeguard natural resources and the climate, there is a need to act in accordance with clearly-defined rules, also from the juridical and economic standpoint, while at the same time taking into due account the solidarity we owe to those living in the poorer areas of our world and to future generations,” the Pope said.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has over 85 member groups, traces its beginnings to a national conference held in January 2000 that was co-convened by Greenpeace and the CBCP-backed Landfill Watch. It will celebrate its 10th year anniversary in January 2010.


Please click to read the entire message of Pope Benedict XVI for the World Day of Peace 2010:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20091208_xliii-world-day-peace_en.html