31 March 2010

PRESIDENTIAL BETS SUPPORT BAN ON PLASTIC BAGS (Greenpeace, EcoWaste Coalition release 2nd Installment of Green Survey Results)

Quezon City. Here is one positively good news for Mother Earth that might put an end to the most visible environmental scourge of our modern era: banning plastic bags.

The EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace revealed the good news in the second installment of the 2010 Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) survey results - this time focusing on the issue of ecological solid waste management. The 2010 GEI was organized to ascertain the environmental platforms and programs of those running for the presidency.

Seven of the nine presidential bets who responded to the survey favor an outright or eventual ban on single-use plastic bags and other plastic-based disposable containers, which have been largely blamed for clogging waterways and causing floods and ocean pollution.

These seven candidates were Sen. Noynoy Aquino, Sen. Dick Gordon, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Sen. Manny Villar, Coun. JC de los Reyes, environmentalist Nicky Perlas and evangelist Eddie Villanueva. Former Pres. Erap Estrada and Defense Sec. Gibo Teodoro did not participate
in the GEI, thereby earning zero points in the ranking process.

In supporting a ban on plastic bags, the presidential aspirants cited the obvious issue of wastefulness as well as the ecological harm resulting from the unchecked disposal of plastic trash in dumpsites, storm drains and water bodies.

Some of the candidates proposed specific measures to curb plastic bag consumption in the country - which, according to Madrigal, amounts to 16 million plastic bags daily - including the imposition of taxes and disincentives as proposed both by Gordon and Perlas and the implementation of vigorous efforts to maximize plastic waste recovery, reuse and recycling as espoused by Aquino and Villar.

“The expressed intent of the seven presidential bets to act against plastics pollution should send a strong signal to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) about the urgent need to impose a policy that will effectively phase out and ultimately ban single-use plastic bags. The Commission has been remiss in performing this mandate, opting to kowtow instead to the the vested interests of plastic manufacturers,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

For his part, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Von Hernandez said that banning single-use plastic bags is vital in solving the waste crisis. "Together with the front-end approaches of waste segregation, composting and recycling - prohibiting and deterring the use of plastic bags and other environmentally unsound packaging will considerably reduce the volume of waste and help avert a host of associated environmental problems," he said.

The panel of non-partisan GEI evaluators gave Perlas 8.3 points for his clear-cut proposals on how to improve the implementation of R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and move the country away from dirty waste disposal towards Zero Waste.

Gordon ranked second with 7.65 points, Madrigal 7.6, Villanueva 6.66, Aquino 6.15, Villar 5.4 and de los Reyes 2.15. Estrada and Teodoro both got zero points for not responding to the survey.

Perlas presented a five-point action plan, including 1) accelerating the adoption of zero waste management, 2) restructuring the whole garbage disposal system to enable segregation at source, composting of organic wastes, recycling of non-biodegradable waste, and proper disposal of toxic wastes (including medical wastes), 3) establishing strategic partnerships with civil society and business, 4) highlighting and rewarding cities and towns that have exemplary solid waste management systems, and 5) instituting a well thought-out system of taxes and incentives that can address the challenge of plastic waste and promote sustainable waste management.

“I would give local governments a firm deadline to properly implement their waste management plans, but if they continue to fail, I will not hesitate to use my powers of supervision and control as chief executive,” Gordon said.

For her part, Madrigal declared that she will direct the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources within the first 100 days of her office to submit an inventory report of non-compliant local government units and demand immediate accountability.

“Zero Waste must be deeply ingrained in our citizens as a cultural practice for it to have nationwide impact,” commented Villanueva.

-end-

29 March 2010

Holy Week Travelers Urged to “Think Outside the Bottle”

Quezon City. As city folk brace themselves for theseasonal “Semana Santa” pilgrimage or leisure trip, a waste and pollution watchdog issued a “prayerful reminder” for travelers to “think outside the bottle” and give up the bottled water habit.

The EcoWaste Coalition released its latest eco-advisory in time for the much anticipated Holy Week exodus where people take advantage of the long vacation to fulfill their religious vows, visit relatives or travel long distances to get away from the frenzy of urban life.

“We expect increased consumer demand for bottled beverages like bottled water as people hit the road or frolic on the beach under the broiling April sun,” said ChinChin Gutierrez of Alaga LAHAT and the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The ever increasing production and consumption of bottled water bring myriad environmental and health problems that consumers are hardly informed about, including the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the whole life cycle of bottled water, the potential leaching of chemicals from plastic bottles, microbial contamination due to poor regulation, and marine litter,” she added.

“For the sake of our planet, our one and only home and living Mother, we need to think outside the bottle. Let our true gratitude to God our Life Giver be shown through our thoughts, words and actions towards a Zero Waste society,” emphasized the film actress who has been internationally recognized for her environmental work.

“In lieu of single-use bottled water, we urge consumers to bring a reusable water jug, stainless steel or lined aluminum container filled with clean tap water or, if necessary, with boiled, filtered or purified water to cut on GHGs and trash. By making it a habit to bring our own ‘lalagyan,’ we avoid creating waste and pollution,” Gutierrez said.

"If buying bottled water cannot be avoided, consumers should dispose of the empty bottles in recycling bins to prevent hazards to human and ecological health. The practice of burning plastic bottles discharges chemical poisons such as dioxins, while discarding them on the street or on the beach pollutes the surroundings and threatens aquatic life," she added.

According to Ocean Conservancy’s “Marine Debris Index,” the Philippines registered the highest number of littered beverage plastic bottles in Southeast Asia, based on marine debris collected during the International Coastal Cleanup Day in 2008. The Philippines accounted for 20,238 pieces, followed by Singapore at 4,932, Thailand 3,216, Malaysia 2,046, Indonesia 681, and Vietnam 5.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited the latest viral video craze “The Story of Bottled Water” launched on March 22, the World Water Day, to affirm its arguments against the bottled water habit that many Filipinos have unwittingly adopted.

The video outlines the various issues against bottled water such as “manufacturing” consumer demand through misleading advertising, the extraction and use of oil to produce water bottles, the emission of GHGs from the manufacture, transportation and disposal of water bottles, and dumping or burning of used bottles.

The video is available for free download at
http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/.

“The Story of Bottled Water” features environmentalist Annie Leonard, founder of the Manila-based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) - the same storyteller of the video sensation “The Story of Stuff” that explains the pitfalls of consumption, which has been viewed by over 8.5 million people since its release in 2007. She is also the author of the book adaptation “The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities and Our Health, and a Vision for Change” that was launched last March 9, 2010.

“It is time we took back the tap. That starts with making a personal commitment to not buy or drink bottled water unless the water in your community is truly unhealthy. Then take the next step. Join the campaign that’s working for real solutions like demanding investment for clean tap water for all,” Leonard said in “The Story of Bottled Water.”

Per capita consumption of bottled water in the Philippines, according to ‘The World’s Water 2006-2007 Data,” rose from 16.3 liters per person in 1999 to 17.1 liters in 2004 as calculated by the Beverage Marketing Corporation.

"To turn the tide against bottled water, Filipino consumers further need to assert their right to drink healthy and safe water straight from the tap and insist that bottled water is no sustainable solution to our thirst for water,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.


-end-

Information Sources:

http://www.storyofstuff.com/
http://www.worldwater.org/data20062007/Table13.pdf
http://www.pacinst.org/topics/water_and_sustainability/bottled_water/
http://www.oceanconservancy.org/pdf/2009_Marine_Debris_Index.pdf

27 March 2010

EcoWaste Coalition: Strip Down for an Eco-Simple Holy Week

Quezon City. As Christian Filipinos observe the time-honored tradition of Semana Santa (Holy Week), a waste and pollution watchdog pleads for a more austere celebration that will not cause further environmental stress and degradation.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a network of some 100 groups working for Zero Waste and for environmental health, urges the faithful to strip down to basic human needs during the Holy Week and voluntarily give up non-essentials, including tobacco, alcohol and junk food, at least for a week, to give Mother Nature a breather from wasteful and dispensable consumption.

“Lent, a time for contemplation and renewal, is a fitting time to ponder about God's Creation and the gift of life. It is a time to simplify, strip down and give up what we really do not need,” said Eileen Sison of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The Holy Week, in particular, offers a week-long opportunity for us to avoid wasteful activities that fritter away resources and defile Mother Nature with trash,” added Sison who is also the NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

The group’s green Lent advocacy has earned the support of Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. of the Diocese of Caloocan and head of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“I appreciate the EcoWaste Coalition’s effort to promote awareness about the link between faith and nature and I join them in requesting the faithful to observe an eco-simple Lent as we are all morally-bound to respect and protect the integrity of God’s Creation. Let’s do our part and start living simply and sustainably,” Bishop Iñiguez stated.

The EcoWaste Coalition has come up with a list of options for an eco-simple Holy Week that Christian Filipinos as environmental stewards can do from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and beyond.

The list came from inputs shared by concerned groups who believe in and see the beauty of simplicity, especially during Lent, and the necessity of reconciling our faith-inspired activities with what is good for human health and the planet.

As Marie Marciano of the Sanib-Lakas ng mga Aktibong Lingkod ng Inang Kalikasan (SALIKA) pointed out,: “Above all, honor the Crucified Christ by deliberately stripping away old habits and attitudes that continue to destroy the environment and our social fabric, and resurrect as a more caring and responsible Earthchild.”

Among those who shared their personal ideas for an eco-simple Holy Week were Add Up Volunteers, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Cavite Green Coalition, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, and SALIKA.

Meanwhile, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP), a partner network of the EcoWaste Coalition, appealed to the faithful to quit smoking to protect the body, “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” from all kinds of harm and infirmity.

“In observance of Holy Week and 2010 as the ‘Year of the Lungs,’ we implore the faithful and all who seek to instill health consciousness for sustainable living, to quit smoking and to actively support the ban on smoking in all public places, workplaces, government premises and public conveyances to rid the air of tobacco-borne toxins and pollutants,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director of FCAP.

“In the spirit of true reconciliation with our Lord, our environment, our neighbors, our families and loved ones, and also ourselves -- let us keep our bodies and surroundings clean and free from these harmful substances. A smoke-free environment brings immeasurable life-saving rewards,” she added.


TIPS FOR AN ECO-SIMPLE HOLY WEEK:

1. Give up morning and afternoon snacks and share the money you will save with Alay Kapwa or your favorite charity.

2. Fast, abstain, or eat spartan meals and spend the unused food budget on feeding the poor, such as cooking “tsampurado” for street children. Or donate it to “Hapag-Asa,” an initiative supported by the Pondo ng Pinoy Movement to combat hunger and malnutrition among poor children nationwide.

3. Unclutter your closet; pick at least five pieces of clothes and give them to sampaguita vendors or donate stuff to the “Segunda Mana” project of Caritas Manila.

4. Make space on your bookshelf by donating some of your books to public libraries and schools.

5. Skip two siestas; instead, devote the time to performing distant pranic healing and blessing of Mother Earth.

6. Avoid fastfood or restaurant food; prepare simple but healthy home-cooked meals with no meat, no preservatives and no wasteful packaging. Make Holy Week the perfect excuse to try a vegetarian diet.

7. Avoid junk food and soda the whole week; take fruits and plain water.

8. Quit smoking for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, and support all tobacco control measures, including the ban on smoking in all public places, workplaces, government facilities and public
transportation.

9. Throw less; aim to reduce waste by ensuring that everyone in your household knows and observes basic practices in ecological discards management such as sorting, reusing, recycling and composting.

10. Declare the whole week as “Conservation Week” for the family and agree to undertake practical measures to reduce consumption of water, electricity and other valuable resources.

11. Stay home and enjoy peace and quiet for a change. This will save gas and reduce carbon emissions that cause climate change.

12. Challenge yourself on how much you can do without, and discover just how little you really need: For example, abstain from malling, movies, television, internet gaming, texting, and electronic gadgets.that consume lots of your personal time, and rediscover the satisfaction of physical exercise, the wonder of conversations, and the joy of spending fruitful moments with your loved ones.

13. Do something different as a response to the call for change. Give up some personal time to serve the church and the society like volunteering your service to a ministry for the underprivileged, cleaning up your neighborhood or removing 2010 election campaign posters from trees.

14. Set a time to reflect and meditate with spiritually uplifting music; plant a tree or herbs, vegetables or even pretty flowers; or learn to cook a healthy, great-tasting vegetarian dish for the whole family to enjoy.

15. Bring your own “binalot” food and drinking water when you do your Visita Iglesia on Maundy Thursday. Walk, bike or take the public transportation to the churches you will visit.

16. Instead of being lured to over-consumption at the malls, go to the park with a picnic basket packed with homemade pandan (lemongrass) tea or fruit juices and home-cooked snacks or meals rather than buying junkfood with all that environment-unfriendly packaging.

17. If you can, avoid going out-of-town. If you really must, however, please consider the following:

a. Choose a destination that is not overcrowded so as not to strain the local resources.
b. Visit sites that promote ecotourism and those that really benefit the local community.
c. Use the public transportation or a car pool in going to your chosen destination.
d. Apply the ecological creed: “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”

26 March 2010

Citizens' Group Backs Probe on ‘Toxic’ Flour Imports from Turkey

Quezon City. A citizens' health and environmental advocacy group today pressed the authorities to act fast amid snowballing public concern over the importation and use of potentially “toxic” flour from Turkey.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the country’s health, trade and customs officials to assure the public that flour used in common food itemslike pan de sal and noodles are fit for human consumption and will not cause health problems for consumers.

“We join Sen. Pimentel in asking the authorities to work doubly hard in getting to the bottom of this toxic food threat, which should be regarded as an urgent national health issue that can harm our consumers, particularly the poor,” said Thony Dizon of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.

Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. last Sunday urged the government to look into the reports that consumer health is put at risk with the use of “contaminated and potentially toxic Turkish flour.”

Parañaque Rep. Eduardo Zialcita and Manila Re. Amado Bagatsing have later joined the Senate minority leader in demanding decisive government action to halt the entry of the “toxic” Turkish flour as a precautionary step.

“While samples of flour imports from Turkey are still being tested in laboratories, we would like to ask our health experts to issue a health advisory that will properly inform and caution the public about the risks of consuming products contaminated with mycotoxins that Turkish flour supposedly contain,” Dizon pointed out.

Sen. Pimented cited a report entitled "Total Aflatoxin, Aflatoxin B1 and Ochratoxin A Levels in Turkish Wheat Flour," published by the Journal of Food and Drug (Vol. 16, No. 2, 2008), showing Turkish flour as tainted with mycotoxins "known to exert toxic effect on human and animal health."

A paper published in the Clinical Microbiology Reviews describes mycotoxins such as aflatoxin and ochratoxin A as capable of causing disease and death in humans and other animals, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Consumption of aflatoxin, a mycotoxin, can cause aflatoxicosis. Acute aflatoxicosis can lead to death, while chronic aflatoxicosis can result to cancer, immune suppression and other “slow” pathological conditions.

Ochratoxin A is known to be a nephrotoxin (a toxin that can harm kidney cells) to animals studied so far. Animal studies indicate that ochratoxin A is also a liver toxin, an immune suppressant, a potent teratogen, and a carcinogen.

-end-

Reference:
“Mycotoxins” by J. W. Bennett and M. Klich,
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164220/

25 March 2010

Ten Women Senatorial Bets Vow to Act vs Toxic Chemicals







Quezon City. Ten women aspiring to join the next Senate of the Philippines drew praises from health and environmental advocates for signing on to a historic pledge that could lead to chemicals policy reforms to safeguard Filipino women from toxic exposure.

Women senatorial aspirants led by reelectionists Sen.Miriam-Defensor and Sen. Pia Cayetano signed the “Pledge to Act on Toxic Chemicals to Protect Filipino Women and Children” initiated by the EcoWaste Coalition as part of its effort to highlight chemical safety as a critical element of the people’s agenda for health, empowerment and change in the May 2010 polls.

Joining Santiago and Cayetano were Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Aksyon Demokratiko leader Sonia Roco, Ang Kapatiran hopefuls Atty. Jo Aurea Imbong and Atty. Grace Riñoza-Plazo, Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, peace and gender justice campaigner Yasmin Busran-Lao, migrant labor rights defender Susan Ople, and child and family rights advocate Atty. Gwendolyn Pimentel.

“We commend our women senatorial bets for their unequivocal commitment to promote legislative measures that will defend the health and safety of our women against chemical contaminants that disrupt bodily functions, causing cancer and other health maladies. We thank them for supporting our call for a toxic-free Philippines,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Their pledge to uphold maternal and child health, promote occupational safety and health, and prevent chemical accidents and disasters is something that all candidates, regardless of political affiliation, should emulate to show serious concern for the welfare of the Filipino women and the whole nation," said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, Secretary, EcoWaste Coalition.

The women senatorial candidates expressed support for chemicals policy reforms as spelled out under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management or SAICM, a global policy, strategy and plan of action to change how chemicals are produced and used in order to minimize harmful effects on human health and the environment.

Such reforms, according to the “Pledge,” should embrace the fundamental principles of chemical safety such as 1) precaution, 2) substitution, 3) no data, no market, 4) polluter pays, 5) public’s right to know and 6) environmental justice.

The EcoWaste Coalition has posted the signed pledges at the group’s website at www.ecowastecoalition.org for the public to see, concluding a series of activities on women and toxics during the Women’s Month this March.

“I express my intent to include in my legislative agenda and plan the elimination of toxic chemicals that invade and threaten both women and children’s health and, thus, the future of the Filipino nation,” he candidates pledged.

“In solidarity with all women and mothers, I commit to propose or co-propose essential Senate resolutions and bills that will promote and protect maternal and child health from hazardous substances,” they said.

The “Pledge” listed several chemicals requiring priority action, including persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, highly hazardous pesticides and other chemical poisons lurking in foodstuff, toys and other children’s articles, and popular consumer and household products.

If they made it to the next Senate, the women senatorial bets vowed to introduce new laws or strengthen existing ones that will regulate, restrict, phase out or ban the importation, manufacture, marketing, sale and consumption of products containing toxic chemicals and ensure the environmentally-sound management of ensuing waste.

Furthermore, they assured the public that they will support policies, strategies and programs on occupational safety and health and chemical accident prevention and preparedness in the workplace.

The women senatorial candidates likewise will seek the enforcement of chemical safety management systems in hazardous establishments, installations and industries in order to avert chemical disasters, injuries and deaths among workers and residents of host communities.

-end-

ORIGINAL TEXT OF WOMEN SENATORIAL CANDIDATES’ PLEDGE TO ACT ON TOXIC CHEMICALS TO PROTECT FILIPINO WOMEN AND CHILDREN

I, a woman aspiring to serve as a Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, express my intent to include in my legislative agenda and plan the elimination of toxic chemicals that invade and threaten both women and children’s health and, thus, the future of the Filipino nation.

In solidarity with all women and mothers, I commit to propose or co-propose essential Senate resolutions and bills that will promote and protect maternal and child health from hazardous substances, especially priority chemicals that can lead to birth and reproductive disorders, disrupt hormonal functions, damage brain development and cause cancer and other serious ailments.

These priority chemicals will include persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and brominated flame retardants, heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium, and highly hazardous pesticides and other top chemicals of concern such as bisphenol A, phthalates and other chemical poisons lurking in foodstuff, toys and other children’s articles, and in numerous popular consumer and household products.

If elected, it is my commitment, in order to protect public health and the environment, to collaborate with other lawmakers, regulatory agencies, the healthcare sector and the civil society in introducing new laws or in strengthening existing ones that will regulate, restrict, phase out or ban the importation, manufacture, marketing, sale and consumption of products containing toxic chemicals and ensure the environmentally-sound management of ensuing waste.

I will support policies and measures that promote our workers’ occupational safety and health from toxic chemicals. Moreover, I will support strategies and measures that strengthen chemical accident prevention and preparedness and enforce chemical safety management systems in hazardous establishments, installations and industries in order to avert chemical disasters, injuries and deaths among workers and residents of host communities.

Finally, I join the EcoWaste Coalition and other groups striving for a toxic-free Philippines, and will support chemicals policy reforms guided by the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and embracing the principles of 1) precaution, 2) substitution, 3) no data, no market, 4) polluter pays, 5) public’s right to know and 6) environmental justice. In service to the Filipino women and children, I hereby sign this pledge:

Signatories:
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago
Sen. Pia Cayetano
Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel
Rep. Liza Maza
Atty. Jo Aurea Imbong
Mrs. Yasmin Busran-Lao
Mrs. Susan Ople
Atty. Gwendolyn Pimentel
Atty. Grace Riñoza-Plazo
Mrs. Sonia Roco

Notes:

1. Atty. Jo Aurea Imbong added “and perils to health” in the second paragraph after “and serious ailments”; she also added “in the workplace” in the fifth paragraph after “toxic chemicals” and “due process” in the last paragraph after “environmental justice.”

2. Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel added "importation" in the fourth paragraph before the word "manufacture."

3. Sen. Pia Cayetano added “consistent with the policy of sustainable development” in the fourth paragraph after “public health and the environment” and changed the word "join" to "support" in the last paragraph.

4. The rest of the signatories signed the original text of the Pledge.

5. SAICM is a global policy, strategy and plan of action adopted in 2006 by governments and other stakeholders, including the Philippines, to change how chemicals are produced and used in order to minimize harmful effects on human health and the environment. While it is not a globally-binding treaty, SAICM reflects a global political commitment to improve policies and measures to protect the health of children, pregnant women, workers and other vulnerable groups and susceptible environments from toxic chemicals.

22 March 2010

Green Groups Rank Presidential Candidates’ Platforms on Clean Water

Quezon City. To mark World Water Day, the environmental advocacy groups EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace today disclosed their ranking of the presidential candidates’ platforms on clean water grading them 0 to 10, with 10 being the “greenest.” Activists with nine empty pails of various sizes representing the scores of the candidates lined up ala “pila-balde” before a traditional water pump.

Environmentalist Nicky Perlas garnered the “greenest” mark with 8.7 points, while independent candidate Sen. Jamby Madrigal landed second with 7.8 points and Bagumbayan standard-bearer Sen. Dick Gordon finished third with 7.2 points.

The three candidates obtained the highest marks among the respondents for their clear, comprehensive and progressive positions and plans on protecting the country’s water resources.

Bangon Pilipinas aspirant Bro. Eddie Villanueva scored 4.8 points, Liberal frontrunner Sen. Noynoy Aquino and Nacionalista contender Sen. Manny Villar both took 3.6 points, and Ang Kapatiran bet Olongapo Councilor JC de los Reyes got 2.7 points.

Former Pres. Erap Estrada of Partido ng Masang Pilipino and ex-Defense Sec. Gibo Teodoro of Lakas-Kampi-CMD automatically got zero points for not responding to the survey.

“This is the first in a series of ‘green’ rankings that we will release to inform the voters how those aspiring to lead our nation intend to tackle the country’s environmental woes such as the
declining quality and quantity of our freshwater sources due to the continued generation and discharge of pollutants from household, agricultural and industrial sources,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The panel of non-partisan evaluators noted that on the issue of water, many of the candidates focused on enforcement as key to addressing water pollution.

“This lack of imagination and focus on enforcement alone will not give the Filipino people clean water. We need front end solutions like better watershed management as well as a shift from dirty production to Zero Discharge and Clean Production in order to stop pollution at source,” said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Toxics Campaigner.

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace see the need to put in place a robust policy and program that aim for Zero Discharge to reduce pollution in the country’s freshwater and groundwater sources as well as an to avert looming chemical threats to our remaining water supply. They also view as essential the observance of the attendant policy on Right to Know where pollution releases are concerned.

The ranking is based on the candidates’ responses to the 2010 Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) survey initiated by the groups to assess and grade the positions and plans of the presidential wannabes on raging environmental issues, including water pollution. They were scored based on the clarity, quality, comprehensiveness, consistency and integrity of the candidates’ positions and plans.

Further results of the GEI survey will be revealed in the coming weeks, culminating in final “green” ranking come Earth Day in April.

The candidates were asked two questions related to water: (1) If elected President, what specific steps will you take to ensure the availability of clean water sources in the country? (2) Are you for or against amending the Clean Water Act to incorporate and institutionalize a framework of Zero Discharge of hazardous chemicals from factories and domestic sources?

According to New York-based think tank Global Source, in their latest paper on the impact of El Niño in the Philippines, recent studies show that unless active steps are taken to protect and conserve the Philippines’ freshwater sources, the amount of freshwater available for each person by 2025 will decrease dramatically by 65 % of the current per capita availability.


Contact information:

• Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition +63922 8286343, (632) 4364733 mannyc@no-burn.org
• Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia +63917 8715257, (632) 4146512 loc 119 beau.baconguis@greenpeace.org

15 March 2010

Presidential Candidates Urged to Fight for Consumer Rights

Quezon City. “The Filipino consumers have the right to know who among the presidential aspirants can best defend them against market abuses that can put their health, safety and welfare at risk.”

Thus said the EcoWaste Coalition as it joins the global consumer movement led by Consumers International in commemorating the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) today, 15 March.

The WCRD is an annual event celebrating the historic declaration in 1962 of the “Bill of Consumer Rights” by the late US President John F. Kennedy.

In a press release, the EcoWaste Coalition prodded the presidential bets to tell the public how they intend to serve the consumer interest against spiraling prices, shoddy goods and services, unfair business practices and toxic-laced products.

“To enable voters who are also consumers to make sound choices come May 10, we deem it essential for the presidential wannabes to integrate the promotion and protection of consumer rights into their electoral platforms,” said Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“This will include the right of consumers to clean and safe air, water and soil that is free from toxins that can harm humans, especially the children, and the ecosystems,” he pointed out.

“We also find it important for the next administration to initiate a holistic review of how Republic Act 7394 has been implemented since it was approved in 1992, particularly in ensuring high safety standards for food and other common consumer and household products,” said Alvarez.

R. A. 7394 is the Consumer Protection Act, a comprehensive law that seeks to promote and protect the general welfare of consumers. The law, among other requirements, seeks to implement measures that will:

- safeguard consumers against hazards to health and safety;
- protect consumers against deceptive, unfair and unconscionable sales acts and practices;
- provide consumers with information and education to facilitate sound choice and the proper exercise of their rights;
- provide consumers with adequate rights and means of redress; and
- involve consumer representatives in the formulation of social and economic policies.

The EcoWaste Coalition recalled that on 15 March 1962, Kennedy, speaking before the US Congress, pointed out that “if a consumer is offered inferior products, if prices are exorbitant, if drugs are unsafe or worthless, if the consumer is unable to choose on an informed basis, then his dollar is wasted, his health and safety may be threatened, and national interest suffers.”

Kennedy declared the right to safety, the right to choose, the right to information and the right to be heard as four basic consumer rights, which eventually led to the adoption of the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection in 1985.

Over the years, these four basic rights have increased to eight with the addition of the right to the satisfaction of basic needs, the right to redress, right to consumer education, and the right to a healthy and sustainable environment.

To further stress the value and importance of consumers, the EcoWaste Coalition cited Mahatma Gandhi who said: “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work - he is the purpose of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to serve him.”

-end-

Additional information for the media:

The eight basic consumer rights, as defined by Consumers International, a 50-year old federation of over 220 consumer groups from 115 countries dedicated to securing a fair, safe and sustainable future for consumers in a global marketplace, are:

The right to satisfaction of basic needs - To have access to basic, essential goods and services: adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, public utilities, water and sanitation.

The right to safety - To be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to health or life.

The right to be informed - To be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling.

The right to choose - To be able to select from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality.

The right to be heard - To have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services.

The right to redress - To receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.

The right to consumer education - To acquire knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of basic consumer rights and responsibilities and how to act on them.

The right to a healthy environment -To live and work in an environment which is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.

11 March 2010

Politicos Urged to Abide by the “5 Rs” of Ecological Campaigning

Quezon City. As national and local politicians step up their crusade for voters’ support, a waste and pollution watchdog appealed to all contenders to abide by the “5 Rs” of ecological campaigning.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for eco-friendly polls, reminded political candidates, including party list groups, and their supporters to be mindful of the environmental consequences of their campaigning.

“Well-meaning public servants are not only interested in topping election surveys and the actual polls in May 2010. They are also careful that their efforts to win over the electorate will not degrade or destroy the environment,” said Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“If they are really pro-Filipino, we expect them to exercise utmost care and responsibility towards the environment and not to defile Mother Earth on which our life and future as a nation depends,” stated the actor-environmentalist.

“With barely two months before the elections, we ask our politicos to actively commit to a ‘clean and green’ campaign in words and deeds,” he emphasized.

“We further ask them to disclose their agenda and plan of action for addressing the many burning environmental problems afflicting our nation, so the voters will know how ‘green’ or not they are,” he added.

"Specifically, we call upon the presidential candidates to earnestly respond to the Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) survey by the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace," he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition told political wannabes to stick to the “5 Rs” (restrain, reduce, respect, retrieve, remove) of eco-friendly campaigning to lessen the environmental impacts of their political activities.

RESTRAIN from spending for political advertisements and other forms of election propaganda beyond the legal limits. Don’t cheat your way to victory by overspending.

REDUCE campaign trash by keeping the volume of materials to what is only necessary. Say no to materials that are hardly reused or recycled such as confetti, buntings, balloons and, yes, sample ballots come election day.

RESPECT the trees by not nailing or tying campaign materials on them. Nails hurt and kill trees. Please stick to common poster areas.

RETRIEVE campaign materials, particularly the widely-used tarpaulin banners, and repurpose them as roofing materials, school bags or as carry bags for relief goods. Make sure that spent materials do not get dumped or burned.

REMOVE election campaign materials immediately after the election day on May 10, 2010. Win or lose, bring your tarps down and scrape your posters off the walls.

"On May 11, we would like to see all the candidates, led by the new President, crossing party lines, cleaning up the streets of campaign propaganda, and reusing and recycling whatever can be salvaged," the EcoWaste Coalition said.

09 March 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Offers 25 “Hot” Cooling Tips as Temperature Soars

Quezon City. An environmental group has come up with practical suggestions that can help Filipino families cope with the scorching summer heat.

The EcoWaste Coalition today released their “Init Survival Tips” as temperature continues to soar with the onset of summer.

Last Saturday, temperature rose to 35.8 degrees celcius in Metro Manila and 37 degrees celcius in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan Valley.

To make the sweltering heat bearable, especially for ordinary citizens, the Coalition compiled a list of “tips” that were sent via e-mail and text by its members and friends.

The “tips” were contributed by sustainable consumption advocate Eileen Sison, beauty titlist Cathy Untalan of the Miss Earth Foundation and by Buklod Tao, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Maskara-Green Stage Filipinas, Mother Earth Foundation, Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Urban Poor Associates and Zero Waste Philippines.

“We can beat the roasting summer heat by adopting creative ideas that will keep our bodies and homes cool without wasting precious water and electricity during this period of El Niño,” said Eileen Sison, NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

“Drinking lots of water is our best protection against the blazing heat. For a healthy and thirst-quenching drink, try blended or ‘ginadgad at pinigang” camias or Indian mango, or quickly-boiled avocado leaves with pandan for a refreshing ‘avopan’ juice,” suggested Ofelia Panganiban of Zero Waste Philippines.

“Think positive and call to mind happy moments to keep you calm and less irritable during the hot season. Enjoy simple family bonding activities such as sharing a healthy meal outside the house or under a tree,” added Bro. Martin Francisco of the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society.

Here are some tips to help you survive the scorching summer season.

I. TIPS TO KEEP YOUR HOME COOL:

- Keep the windows open and the air flowing.

- Unclutter your home of stuff that eat space and get in the way of the air and simple living.

- Install blinds or shades made of native materials to block intense sun’s rays.

- Get farther from the roof; spend more time downstairs.

- Sun bleach or dry your clothes on the roof (the clothes will deflect the sun’s heat).

- Green your home with indoor plants that can also serve as natural air fresheners.

- Use plants, potted or planted directly into the soil, to block off the afternoon sun.

- Turf off sources of heat such as lights bulbs and appliances when not in use; maximize the daylight.

- Keep the electric fans clean and in good condition.

- Do heat-generating activities such as ironing clothes at night.

- Never burn your household discards, including fallen leaves and twigs from the garden.

- Recycle graywater from dishwashing, laundry and bathing to water plants or dampen dusty pavements.


II. TIPS TO KEEP YOUR BODY COOL:

- Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and your temperature down.

- Bring drinking water in reusable jug every time you go out (and lessen consumption of bottled water).

- Prepare your own healthy thirst quenchers such as “buko” juice or “iced tea” from pandan and tanglad (lemon grass) leaves.

- Refrain from consuming alcoholic drink, which makes one urinate more often and cause water loss.

- Enjoy fruits and vegetables with high water content such as watermelon, melon, singkamas (turnip) and cucumber.

- Eat small meals at regular intervals as big meals can warm your body up; eat green leafy veggies.

- Place damp handtowel on forehead, around the neck and under the armpits for a relaxing cool.

- When taking a bath, wet your underarms and extremities first before the head area; keep your shower time short to cut on water use.

- Do inhale-exhale exercise at least five times a day.

- Hold a cold beverage on your neck to cool yourself.

- Protect yourself from the sun using an umbrella, bandana, cap or an anahaw palm fan.

- Wear shades or sunglasses to protect your eyes against the sun’s harsh blaze.

- Wear light and loose clothes that breathe easily.

08 March 2010

Watchdog Slams Sale of Banned Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics in Ongpin and Carriedo



Quezon City. A chemical safety watchdog deplored the continued sale of Chinese cosmetics that were recently recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing high levels of mercury, a highly toxic metal.

As the International Women’s Day is observed in the Philippines and across the globe, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the FDA to launch an all-out campaign to rid the market of hazardous personal care products that can expose women to harmful chemicals and cause adverse health consequences.

In a letter faxed today to the office of FDA Director Nazarita T. Tacandong, the EcoWaste Coalition alerted the authorities that banned mercury-laced cosmetics imported from China are still on sale in Binondo and Quiapo shops.

“Our investigation shows that the mercury-tainted beauty products are being sold in Ongpin and Carriedo in brazen disregard of the FDA recall and seizure orders,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coaltion’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

“As a woman and a mother, I find it deeply disturbing to witness with my own eyes how these harmful products are being offered to uninformed women consumers in the name of fairer and flawless skin complexion,” she said.

“We appeal to the FDA to work even harder to rid the market of toxic products and ensure that the consumer right to information and safety from hazardous goods is genuinely upheld,” Lucero emphasized.

The FDA issued last month two consecutive orders banning Chinese-made facial creams and skin whitening creams containing mercury “that clearly pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public.”

FDA banned Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, Jiaoli Huichusu Special Cut Genuine and Jiaoli 2+17 Days Clearing Facial Spots Suit under Circular 2010-002 issued on February 9.

Under Circular 2010-004 dated February 18, the FDA banned Jiao Li Huichusu Whitening Speckles Removal Cream, Xin Jiao Li 7-Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Cream, Jiao Li 10-Days Eliminating Freckle Day & Night Set, Jiao Li 7-Days Eliminating Freckle AB Set, Jiao Liang Miraculous Cream, Xin Jiao Liang 7-Days Miracle Package for Spots Refining, Jiao Mei Miraculous Cream, Jiao Li Extra Pearl Facial Cream, and Jiao Yan Specific Miraculous Cream.

Last Sunday, EcoWaste Coalition and Save Babies Coalition volunteers organized a public awareness activity in Binondo to inform consumers about the health hazards posed by toxic beauty products and handed out leaflets encouraging retailers and buyers not to sell, buy or use
mercury-contaminated cosmetics.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, there is no reason for cosmetic manufacturers to use toxic chemicals such as mercury in their products and threaten human as well as ecological health.

“It is the responsibility of manufacturers to ensure that their products will not expose their women customers to toxic chemicals that can lead to serious health problems both for the mother and her child. We therefore appeal to them to produce only non-toxic products,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

07 March 2010

Presidential bets should champion maternal and child health, address toxic chemical threats




Quezon City. In observance of the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day, the EcoWaste Coalition dared presidential candidates for the 2010 elections to commit to protecting maternal and child health from harmful chemicals.

With barely two months before voters troop to poll precincts, the waste and pollution watchdog urged those aspiring to become the next Chief Executive to save “women (who) hold up half the sky,” as an old Chinese saying goes, from toxic chemical threats.

The EcoWaste Coalition, together with the Save Babies Coalition and almost 150 groups and individuals, affirmed that, in this era of widespread pollution from chemicals, the Philippines badly needs a “Pangulong PATOK” (“Pangulong Ayaw sa Toksik” or “President Against Toxics”).

“We need a new leader who will keep toxic chemicals under tight control to safeguard women’s health and their ability to bear, nurture and uphold life,” said Ines Fernandez of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition.

“These chemicals are so invasive that even a mother’s belly, which we thought should be a safe place for the fetus to grow and develop, is contaminated with chemicals of concern, including many used in common consumer products such as cosmetics and personal care products,” she added.

Actor-environmentalist Roy Alvarez, the newly-elected President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “Let us protect our women from toxic chemicals in cosmetics and other products. The spate of government-issued recall and seizure directives on mercury-tainted cosmetics is a clarion call for chemicals policy reforms that our political leaders should genuinely heed.”

To drive their point, women members of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition in colorful “pregnant belly” outfit and wearing headgears of mock cosmetics paraded from Binondo Church to Sta. Cruz Church in Manila, while volunteers in purple shirts distribute leaflets advising retailers and consumers not to sell, buy or use beauty products containing mercury and other harmful chemicals.

Representatives of Alaga LAHAT, Angkan ng Mandirigma, Ang NARS, Arugaan, Buklod Tao, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Kupkop Kita Kabayan Foundation, and Zero Waste Philippines were among those who took part in the event.

The Food and Drug Administration on February 9 and 18 this year ordered the recall and seizure of 12 China-imported facial creams and skin whitening products that were found to contain high levels of mercury, an extremely toxic metal.

Dermal absorption is deemed the most significant route of mercury exposure in cosmetics since most cosmetics are applied to the skin. Mercury is then absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, causing allergic reactions, skin irritation, or adverse effects on the nervous system.

To illustrate how chemicals affect women, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the report “Earliest Exposures,” a biomonitoring study by the US-based Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) of nine pregnant women, which shows that chemicals found in a wide variety of consumer products contaminate mothers’ bodies, and babies enter the world already exposed to known toxics.

Released in November 2009 by the WTC, Commonweal and the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, the report detected 13 foreign chemicals in the blood and urine of pregnant women who participated in the study.

Specifically, the pregnant women tested positive with mercury, bisphenol A, phthalates and “Teflon chemicals,” which can cause birth and reproductive disorders, cancer, disrupt hormonal functions and damage brain development.

A “Pangulong PATOK” can make a huge difference in pushing Congress as well as the industry in ensuring that only the safest chemicals are used in products and sold in the country, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition said.

The next President can initiate policies that will keep toxic substances away from pregnant women and the developing fetus, which is most vulnerable, the groups said.

These policies, according to the groups, can include:

a. A national chemical safety policy framework and action plan based on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) to improve public health and the environment, particularly maternal and child health.

b. A ban on toxic chemicals of concern as well as a ban on products containing these chemicals, particularly those that can cause cancer and reproductive harm, or lead to learning disabilities.

c. Mandatory product information labeling that will disclose all the chemical contents of products and their potential health and environmental effects as well as provide guidance on handling and
waste management.

-end-

Additional information for the media:

1. Bisphenol A is a hormone disrupting chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic and is linked to cancer, early puberty, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems.

2. Phthalates are plasticizers and fragrance carriers found in consumer products from shower curtains to shampoo and are linked to reproductive problems and asthma.

3. “Teflon chemicals,” or perfluorinated compounds, are chemicals used to create stain-protection products and non-stick cookware and are linked to low birth weight, obesity, and cancer.

4. To read the Executive Summary of “Earliest Exposures,” please log on to: http://watoxics.org/files/EE_ExecSummary_Embargoed_WTC.pdf

5. To learn more about chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products, please visit the Skin Deep Database of the Environmental Working Group at:
http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=308

6. To read the FDA circulars banning mercury-containing cosmetics from China, please see:
http://www.bfad.gov.ph/cfc/pdf.cfm?pdfid=1311
http://www.bfad.gov.ph/cfc/pdf.cfm?pdfid=1279

01 March 2010

Public Urged Not to Burn Trash as Nation Sizzles with Rising Mercury

Quezon City. As mercury rises due to the El Niño phenomenon, a waste and pollution watchdog appealed to the public not to burn trash that could only worsen the smoldering heat of summer.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the eco-advisory against open burning in solidarity with the Bureau of Fire Protection, which is leading the country’s observance of the Fire Prevention Month this March.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate of “Zero Waste for Zero Warming,” appealed to both urban and rural residents to refrain from setting their discards on fire and causing damage to human and ecological health as well as to properties.

“Open burning of trash, even in small quantities, can get out of control and cause residential and brush fires, particularly during the long dry spell,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

“Even the burning of grass, rice straws and other agricultural residues can pose hazards to motorists, especially for those travelling in the NLEX, SLEX and SCTEX expressways, because of impaired or reduced visibility caused by the smoke,” he added.

“Open burning further hurts the health of citizens, young and old, with the release of gas and particulate contaminants that can pollute the air quality and trigger or aggravate serious respiratory ailments and other health problems,” Calonzo said.

“The smoke from open burning can be most detrimental to the health of small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people suffering from chemical sensitivities and respiratory conditions,” he pointed out.

A fact sheet prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives says that dioxins, which are toxic byproducts of burning materials containing chlorine, can cause various types of cancer and other serious reproductive, developmental and other health problems.

Aside from cancer-causing dioxins, open burning releases other health-damaging gases and fine particles, including nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and particulate matter or PM.

PM, also known as particulate pollution, pertains to the microscopic particles in smoke that can be breathed deep into the lungs, cause coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath and exacerbate respiratory and heart diseases. These particles can also transport dangerous chemical substances such as dioxins.

In lieu of open burning, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends that citizens reduce their waste size to the minimum and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that is marked by active ecological concern and responsibility.

To prevent the noxious air pollution from open burning, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following waste reduction tips culled from the group’s “101 Green Tips to Beat Climate Change":

- Segregate your discards at the point of generation, clean and dry them.

- Don’t bin your waste. Repair, reuse or recycle as many times as possible.

- Reuse bags, bottles, cans and other containers to extend their life span.

- Compost your kitchen waste, yard trimmings and other organic waste.

- Pick reusable products that can be cleaned and used time and again.

- Bring your own bayong or reusable carry bag when you shop.

- Say no to plastic bags.

Open burning is deemed illegal and punishable under Section 48 of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, a major environmental legislation that Congress enacted in 2000 to promote human and ecological health.

Upon conviction, violator shall be punished with a fine of not less than P300.00 but not exceeding P1,000.00 or imprisonment of one to 15 days, or both.

-end-