20 June 2011

10 Metric Tons of Banned Poison Sitting in Bulacan Warehouse

As the National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW) is observed starting today, a toxic watchdog has asked the government to order the removal of 10 metric tons of highly hazardous pesticide that has long been sitting in a private warehouse in Bulacan.

Held every fourth week of June by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1777 of 2009, the NPPW seeks to promote public awareness about poison prevention at home, school, workplace and the general environment.

The call made by the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network pushing for chemical safety, also coincided with the third anniversary of the infamous MV Princess of the Stars maritime disaster.

MV Princess of the Stars sank off the municipality of San Fernando in Romblon Province on June 21, 2008 at the height of typhoon Frank while en route to Cebu, drowning hundreds of passengers and bringing down dangerous goods such as the endosulfan that the passenger boat was illegally transporting.

“Three years on and we still see no closure for the victims’ families, especially for those who are still waiting for the remains of their kins to be finally retrieved and buried,” lamented Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“While the Del Monte-owned endosulfan shipment has been reclaimed from the ill-fated ship in October 2008, the pesticide, now targeted for global elimination, has yet to be safely disposed of,” he added.

As confirmed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) to the EcoWaste Coalition, the endosulfan stocks are being kept in the warehouse of Vertical Fertilizer Chemical Corporation in Meycauayan, Bulacan.

“As the country observes the poison consciousness and avoidance week, we again ask the authorities to order the removal and environmentally-sound disposal of the endosulfan stocks store in Bulacan, once and for all,” he stressed.

“Please do not wait for another chemical poison disaster to happen before you act,” he pleaded.

Delegates meeting at the fifth Conference of Parties (COP5) of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) last April 2011 have decided to list endosulfan under Annex A of the treaty for global elimination, subject to specific exemptions.

Since the shocking discovery of endosulfan consignments in the sunken ship, the EcoWaste Coalition and other Bantay Endosulfan groups have asked the authorities to immediately return the shipment to its Israeli manufacturer.

Responding to Bantay Endosulfan’s plea, then DOTC Undersecretary Maria Elena Bautista wrote to the groups on September 11, 2008 saying that “Del Monte Phils., as consignee and supposed owner of the cargo intends to ship back said chemical to its manufacturer in Israel.”

In another letter sent to Bantay Endosulfan, Bautista on November 20, 2008 said “that the endosulfan is now under the custody of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (which) has been ordered to return the endosulfan to its owner Makhteshim Chemicals Ltd.”

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