23 November 2012

Environmentalists Raise Need to Regulate Sky Lanterns

Environmentalists today appealed to the national and local authorities to regulate the use of sky lanterns or mini-hot air balloons before it becomes a craze and “gets out of control.”

As the use of sky lanterns gains popularity in the country, environmental leaders called on the authorities to waste no time in setting a policy that will restrict, if not ban, sky lanterns, in order to ensure human and wildlife safety.

Roy Alvarez of Alaga Lahat, Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz of Ang Nars, Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao, Manny Calonzo of IPEN, Ochie Tolentino of Cavite Green Coalition, Tessa Oliva of Miriam PEACE, Romy Hidalgo of November 17 Movement, Rene Pineda of Partnership for Clean Air and Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of Philippine Earth Justice Center asked the authorities “to take action before the trade in sky lanterns soars during the yuletide season and gets out of control.”

Claims by some traders that sky lanterns are eco-friendly substitutes to the blasting of firecrackers and fireworks and posing no danger to humans and animals prompted them to ask the government to step in and regulate their use.

They specifically asked the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Health, Interior and Local Government, Trade and Industry, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Civil Aviation Authority as well as local government units (LGUs) to instigate the necessary precautionary measures.

“LGUs can initiate appropriate policies regulating sky lanterns as it is within the exercise of their police power to protect the health and ensure the safety of their inhabitants,” stated Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, a Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We support this move for regulation as the released sky lanterns will go somewhere and can cause adverse effects,” said Tessa Oliva of Miriam PEACE, reminding that “everything must go somewhere,” one of the seven environmental principles or commandments of nature.

Sky lanterns, according to the market monitoring on November 22 by the EcoWaste Coalition, are sold in Divisoria for P20 - P50 per piece depending on the number of lanterns bought.

At present, there is no regulation governing the production, sale and use of sky lanterns in the Philippines despite efforts in other countries to limit or prohibit their use because of potential fire hazards as well as safety risks for aircrafts, animals and people.

In Australia, for instance, the government through the Consumer Protection Notice No. 17 of 2011 imposed a permanent ban on sky lanterns, which
"rely on an open flame to heat the air inside the lantern."

“The purpose of the permanent ban on these goods (in Australia) is to ensure ongoing consumer safety by prohibiting the supply of sky lanterns. The associated hazard is the risk of starting an uncontrolled fire if the open flame contacts combustible material, particularly in bushfire‑prone areas,” the notice stated.

In July 2012,
Governor Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii signed House Bill 2113, which bans the ignition, possession, selling, offering for sale, or use of aerial luminaries such as sky lanterns.

In the United Kingdom, David Heath, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, in October 2012 commissioned an inquiry into the effects of sky lanterns on local crops, livestock and the environment.

UK NGOs such as the Marine Conservation Society, National Farmers Union, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Soil Association, Women’s Food and Farming Union and other groups have called for a ban on sky lanterns.

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